Buffon still Juve's rock after 100th UCL game

Monaco's young pretenders and the experienced battlers of Juventus went head-to-head at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday night, with Kylian Mbappe and Gonzalo Higuain the class acts in each side.

The Italian champion has the final in Cardiff on June 3 in its sights, with a showdown against holder Real Madrid, Higuain's former side, looking probable.

"Juventus started well, but after 10 to 15 minutes", said Monaco's Portuguese coach, Leonardo Jardim.

"We know how strong we are and that we are a team who can fight against anybody, so it is just a question of belief", he added. "I spend so much energy to keep myself in shape and perform well in these games, to be of use to my teammates".

Before last weekend's 2-2 draw at Atalanta, Juventus hadn't conceded in any competition since a 3-2 cup loss at Napoli - a run of five matches, which included two games against Barcelona. "So I could say that I have improved a lot, both in the field, tactically, and off the field, learning a new mentality and a new culture". "The day I quit, I want people to be sad about it", remarked Buffon, twice a beaten finalist in the Champions League.

"We approached the game the way we had to and did what he had to do", Buffon told BeIN Sports television. But he remains one of the world's best and shortly after he was there to turn the ball behind after Radamel Falcao met another Dirar delivery with a terrific leap.

"Our lack of a cutting edge was in large part due to his work in goal: He pulled off two or three incredible saves".

"But to get results, everyone needs to work hard".

"When you want to win big games, you have to make sacrifices and track back", Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said of his star striker. They will host Monaco in next Tuesday's return leg.

In contrast Monaco, having won their previous 13 matches at the Stade Louis II and been so thrilling going forward all campaign, could not find a way through the brilliant away defence.

"Unluckily for us, Buffon made two or three unbelievable saves". The back line of Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon stood firm as they cancelled out Monaco's risky front line.

Juventus now have a major advantage as no semi-finalist team has ever made a comeback from 2-0 down at home after the first leg.

"It is hard, but we need to keep believing". And the best way to maintain our belief - even though we only have a five per cent chance of qualifying for the final - is to win our league clash in Nancy on Saturday.

Monaco's hopes of reaching the Champions League will now rest in scoring two or more goals past them away from home.

  • Julie Sanders