Comparing the stats put up between two clubs in different league, different Champions League opponents and playing different styles of football can be an exercise in futility at times. However, it's still important to take a look at how these clubs have fared and what, if any, conclusions we can draw from the numbers they've accrued so far. We'll primarily focus on league performances as they provide more of a sample size to work with, as well as simple team stats instead of more complex to calculate ones such as expected goals.
|Shots (on target)/game
|Pass completion %
On the face of it, it's quite easy to say that Real Madrid holds the significant offensive advantage when taking a quick look at the numbers they've put up. They've scored more goals in open play alone (69) than Juventus has scored total. Aside from winning .3 more aerial duels per game, there is virtually no notable edge that Juventus holds when it comes to offensive performances. However, that might be exactly where this tie could be won.
Real Madrid has created 154 chances from crosses in league play this season, an average of 4.4 per match and 25 more than any other team in the five major European leagues. Those chances have turned into 24 goals, also the most in those leagues. Real completes 28 percent of its crosses, and 29 of its crosses into the attacking penalty area, both of which are fifth-best in the five major European leagues.
This strategy may not work against Juventus, which allows opponents to complete 19 percent of crosses in league play, lowest in Serie A. The average for the five major European leagues is 22 percent. Juventus has allowed 48 chances from crosses in league play this season, an average of 1.3 per match.
Real Madrid wins 54 percent of its aerial duels while Juventus wins 51 percent and it's in this three percent that Madrid could certainly look to assert its dominance, especially thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo who by himself has scored three more headed goals in La Liga than Juventus has as a team in Serie A. Seeing as how Real Madrid averages 9.7 shots in the penalty area per game, second best in La Liga, it's pretty easy to see this as an area to exploit.
Juventus, on the other hand, offers a distinctly different flavor to their attack. Set pieces and shots from distance is the name of their game as they have 13 goals via set piece to their name thanks to the ageless Andrea Pirlo's foot while the team averages 44 percent of their shots from outside of the box, approximately seven shots per game. Juventus averages 490 short passes per game (compared to Real Madrid's 483 per game), which is second best in the league, but is about middle of the pack when it comes to crosses and long balls. This is a team which will smartly look to win the ball back and work it into the middle of the pitch in order to pinpoint it on target from a distance further back than what Madrid prefers, meaning that Iker Casillas will have to stay on his toes at all time if he wants to prevent a long range screamer.
|Yellow cards (red)
This is where things start to get tricky as defensive numbers are especially difficult to analyze without context. For example, a high tackle number could mean that the team is either an excellent tackling unit or one which is losing the ball at a high rate and resorting to physically retrieving it instead of using technical skill and positioning to force the opposition into losing the ball. As Xabi Alonso once said, "Tackling is a [last] resort, and you will need it, but it isn't a quality to aspire to, a definition."
That being said, there are a couple interesting things to note.
Juventus should also be ready for Real Madrid's counterattack. Real has taken 39 shots and put 19 on target in counterattack situations in league play this season, both of which are the most in the five major European leagues. These have resulted in eight goals, most in La Liga and third-most in the major European leagues. Juventus has allowed only one goal on the counter attack in league play this season.
Comparisons between Juventus and Atletico Madrid have been made as two sides who'll look to stifle the opposition with their defense only to break into a counterattack when the opposition is pushed too far forward and while that's true to an extent, the way they go about running their defense is different. While Atleti averages a physical 23.8 tackles per game, Juve only commits 17.8 of them, telling us that Real Madrid should perhaps be ready for less of an overtly physical challenge but more of a spatial one that isn't so reliant on brute force. An example of this is how incredibly stifling Juventus is when it comes to opposing dribblers as they only get beat by dribbles slightly less than eight times per game while Madrid gets beat over nine times.
Where Madrid could punish Juventus is in the fouls game. Though Juve is a side which plays a relatively clean game in terms of the number of fouls committed per game, they do have a habit of losing out on more foul calls compared to Madrid. Juventus has been on the winning side of foul calls exactly 50 percent of the time while Real Madrid has the whistles go their way 59 percent of the time. This could be vital in terms of Madrid putting itself in advantageous danger zones without necessarily committing too many men forward in open play in fear of being hit on the counterattack. Do not be surprised if free kicks play a prominent role in this tie.
As far as Madrid's defense, it's just as close to being the league leader in most shots conceded as it is the league leader in fewest shots conceded. This is a team putting up the second fewest tackles per game with the 13th best tackle success rate (41 percent) in the league. They're also the league's worst intercepting team with 12.77 per game. However, when it comes to blocked shots they're sixth best in the league (3/game) and the league's best in terms of defensive mistakes leading to goals conceded (errors such as poor backpasses, goalie kicks direct to free opposition striker, etc.). Honestly, aside from clearances and blocks, with many of them being last ditch ones, there's virtually nothing special about this Madrid defense. They're quite good at drawing offside flags but seeing as how Juventus will look to attack via the counter and short passes, this might not even be that big of a strength for Madrid. The key for them will be limiting space around the box for Juventus to exploit via long range shots and not committing silly fouls within direct free kick distance where Pirlo can cause serious harm. Also keep an eye on dispossessions as Juventus leads Serie A in times dispossesed with 13/game (as compared to Madrid's 9/game).
This tie has all the makings of a "special teams" dream with Madrid being an aerial bully and Juventus being an aerial black hole. Juventus has a set piece master in Andrea Pirlo while Real Madrid is one of Europe's best at drawing fouls. When both clubs are rolling it would seem that Real Madrid is the irresistible force and Juventus is the immovable object so a good bet would be this tie being decided on set pieces and in the air, something Real Madrid has had a lot of practice with versus Atletico Madrid this season.
Author's note: Yes, I am fully aware that numbers do not paint the full picture. Yes, I am aware that numbers should always be put into context. Yes, I am aware that stats should be working in conjunction with the eye test instead of taking its place. No, dropping that quote about the drunkard using a lampposts in relations to stats doesn't invalidate the importance of stats.
- Juventus vs Real Madrid, 2015 Champions League Semifinals: Match preview
- Juventus-Real Madrid preview, Managing Madrid Podcast
- Know the opponent: Five questions with Juventus site 'Black & White & Read All Over'
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- Pepe: "It's a privilege to learn from Ancelotti every day"