Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insists his side will not be in the Champions League semi-finals just to make up the numbers after the Italian giants edged past Monaco on Wednesday evening.
The Serie A leaders played out a 0-0 second-leg draw at the Stade Louis II to win their quarter-final tie 1-0 on aggregate, Arturo Vidal’s penalty in Turin last week ultimately proving to be the difference.
While Juve have recovered from the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italian football in 2006 to dominate again domestically in recent seasons, they have not been in the last four in Europe’s elite club competition since 2003.
The two-time European champions will therefore be the underdogs in Friday’s draw alongside holders Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, clubs who have 10 appearances in the semi-finals between them over the last four seasons alone.
But a bullish Allegri said: “We are not afraid. This was an important objective for us but not the final one.
“There would be no point in qualifying if we didn’t want to go even further. We will of course look to reach the final.”
In his first season in charge of Italy’s most successful club, Allegri has Juve on the brink of retaining the Serie A title, in the final of the Italian Cup and now they remain in with a chance of continental glory, 30 years after they won their first European Cup on the night of the Heysel disaster.
“It is a great year for Juve. The supporters can be happy. The results show that we are on our way to becoming strong again and building a basis for the future,” Allegri added.
“The performances were not sensational. The two games were not beautiful but we defended well and we needed to be brave and tenacious.”
Vidal had recovered from illness in time to start the game in the principality and Allegri revealed that the bug from which the Chilean was suffering had passed on to strikers Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata, who were both sick after being substituted.
“That shows how big the result is and that we have an exceptional group of players who managed to hold on to their advantage. We are enormously satisfied at being through.”
It was the sort of rock solid defensive performance so often associated with Italian teams in the past, as Juve kept a ninth clean sheet in their last 10 games.
– ‘The Italian way’ –
“There was a lot of pressure on the players after 12 years of waiting. It’s the Italian way, it’s ugly but it works,” French full-back Patrice Evra told beIN Sports.
Evra was part of the Monaco side that reached theChampions League final in 2004 and he admitted that the principality club deserved more for their performances over the two legs.
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim agreed, but his side were let down by their lack of quality in the opposition area and also by penalty calls that went against them in both legs.
The decision to award Juve a spot-kick in the first leg for a foul that appeared to take place just outside the box was controversial, and the Ligue 1 side had strong claims for a second-leg penalty waved away after Geoffrey Kondogbia went down under Vidal’s tackle.
“I am proud of what we did over the two games. Monaco were never inferior to Juventus. We played good football and showed all of Europe our individual and collective quality,” Jardim said.
“I’m not going to speak about referees. I think you (the media) need to do that, but certainly in the quarter-finals of the Champions League it’s a shame that the tie wasn’t decided by the quality of the players.”
Monaco, who are currently third in the French top flight with five games left, must now focus on holding onto a podium place which would take them back into the Champions League next season.
“At the moment the number one objective is to make sure the team recovers, physically but also mentally,” added the coach.
“Now we will focus our energy and ambition on the league to try to secure our objective, although we know it will not be easy.” – Agence France-Presse