Diego Simeone insists Juventus remain Group A favourite despite motivating Atletico Madrid to a narrow win over the Serie A side in Wednesday’s round two Champions League duel.
Arda Turan’s 75th-minute effort helped last season’s finalist revive their ambition in the present campaign and snatch only their second win in six meetings with the ‘Old Lady of Turin.
The Turkish international stole in ahead of Stephan Lichsteiner to convert Juanfran’s cross, ending Juventus’ 100 per cent start to the season in the process.
The Spanish La Liga champions’ win came on the back of a disappointing 3-2 opening defeat at Olympiakos but with Malmo, who also lost their opening game in Turin claiming their maiden championship win in the other fixture, the group quartet are tied on three points with four rounds of matches left.
“I wouldn’t say we have recovered from the defeat (against Olympiakos), with four teams on three points it all starts over, but it could be that Juventus will be the strongest team in the group,” said the Argentine boss who missed his side’s loss in Greece through suspension.
Juventus suffered a shock elimination at the group stage last season, but got off to an imperious start under new coach Massimiliano Allegri on domestic ground, where they have won all five of their matches.
In a game of few chances, both teams defended well until Turan’s crucial strike. The Italian champions have now lost four of its last five away games in Europe’s elite club competition. Their last win on the road came in a 3-0 success at Celtic last February.
Despite their poor away form, Simeone believes Juve are still one of the best teams in the competition, likening them to Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
“For me they are at the level of Madrid or Barcelona,” he noted. “Watching the videos over and over, they are one of the hardest teams I have seen to attack or cause damage against. They have two magnificent strikers, full-backs or wingers that attack and defend, brilliant players in midfield and an enormous goalkeeper that everyone knows.”
Allegri rues missed chances
The former AC Milan coach, who has been saddled with the objective to improve Juve’s fortune in Europe, says his side lacked the killer instinct mostly in the second-half of the game.
Juve dominated Wednesday’s proceedings but were stunned by Turan’s winner 15 minutes from time.
“They took advantage of their only chance,” Allegri, who succeeded Antonio Conte in the summer, said. “We go away with a defeat after playing very well, but it is clear we have paid dearly for that one error.
“In the first-half we didn’t have very many chances, but in the second we had three or four clear ones on counter-attacks where we failed with the last pass.”
The Italian says he remains confident his side can go far in Europe despite the loss and does not think the defeat at the Estadio Vicente Calderon will affect his team at the weekend when they host unbeaten Roma, with both teams level on 15 points at the summit of the Italian league.
“The group is wide open,” Allegri added on the club’s official website. “Malmo is the surprise package, having beaten Olympiacos (on Wednesday). There is all to play for. We have a good probability to go through to the next round and we just have to take it one game at a time.
“Juve arrive in good shape. We won all five in Serie A and still haven’t conceded there. It will certainly be a great game and the defeat to Atletico will not change the atmosphere in the team.”