Champions League Group D: Chance for Juventus, Atletico to establish lead

Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to add to his 701 career goals when Juventus takes on Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League Group D fixture.

Ronaldo has given his vote of confidence for new coach Sarri.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Juventus and goal-hungry Cristiano Ronaldo will host Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday with the aim of establishing a lead in the Group D of the Champions League.

Under former manager Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus fell short in the competition twice and was branded a pragmatic side. Ronaldo, who averaged 50 goals a season during his nine years at Real Madrid, could muster only 28 in all competition in his first year at the Old Lady.

The team crashed out of the Champions League in the quarterfinal stage after struggling to live with the exuberance of a youthful Ajax side, despite the Portuguese forward scoring twice.

READ | Group A: Madrid faces Galatasaray challenge, PSG looks to continue unbeaten run

Ronaldo gave coach Maurizio Sarri a vote of confidence on Monday when he said he was happy with the “more attacking” approach the club had adopted since Sarri came on board in the summer.

So far this season, Ronaldo has scored five goals in nine games and was on target at the weekend when Juventus beat Bologna 2-1 to consolidate top spot in Serie A.

“I think the team is getting better,” said Ronaldo. “We are getting more and more confident. We are playing a different brand of football, more attacking.

“I like the way he (Sarri) wants the team to play. We are creating more opportunities, we have more confidence in ourselves, I'm happy with these changes.

“Maybe we could score a little more but I'm proud of what we are doing.”

“My role hasn't changed, perhaps I have a bit more freedom,” he said.

“I am happy because, bit by bit, we are getting to where Juventus ought to be. We have a difference coach, a different system, new players. We changed in order to improve.”

The Italian champion top Group D having drawn with Atletico Madrid and beaten Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the last round of games.

STAT BOX

6 - Juventus has won its last six matches in a row in all competitions.

1 - Lokomotiv has failed to win once in its last seven matches and that was the 2-0 defeat to Atletico.

Goal shy Atletico hosts Bayer

With record signing Joao Felix ruled out for two-three weeks, Atletico Madrid's struggling goal-scoring output will be in focus in its match against Bayer Leverkusen at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico has scored just 12 goals in 11 matches this season while top-scorer Felix suffered an ankle injury in the match against Valencia over the weekend.

Strikers Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata have a combined three goals between them.

Diego Simeone must find a solution for goals in the absence of Joao Felix. Photo: Getty Images

 

Despite Diego Simeone's misfiring side being fifth in LaLiga, Simeone believes there are also some positive performances to build on.

Asked about the criticism his side have faced in the wake of its latest draw, Simeone told reporters: "It's an opinion. I respect it. We've always worked hard, we keep working to improve. The team hasn't been consistent, but we've had our [good] moments in every game, against Getafe, Leganes, Celta Vigo... we have to look for [consistency] and keep trying.

"Morata had chances, Costa too. We have to threaten the goal. You have to live with possible down spells."

Koke has started all 11 of Atletico's matches this season and agrees that results will soon start to turn.

"I have to respect everyone's opinion," Koke said at Monday's pre-match news conference ahead of the visit of Leverkusen.

"I'm just focused on keep working hard and help my team winning. I respect people's opinion about me and the team. I cannot agree with some of those. We all, myself, my team-mates and the coaching staff are working hard to get good results. 

"We have a great squad and sooner or late we will get good results.

"Sometimes, people get tired of seeing the same faces for so long time, they get used to good things, so that is why some times there are some critics. 

"We are just three points behind Barcelona and level with Juventus in the Champions League group stage. Let's be calm as the season has just started. We will keep working on it and the positive results will eventually come up."

Atletico is placed second in the group with four points.

STAT BOX

7 - Altetico is unbeaten in its last seven matches but has drawn five of them in that sequence.

3 - Leverkusen is winless in its last three matches.

With inputs from AFP and Opta

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