MILAN (AFP) – Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has warned over the counter-attacking threat of Borussia Dortmund, but believes the Italians’ Champions League ambitions will shine through in their last 16 clash in Turin on Tuesday.
Juventus underlined their status as Serie A champions in-waiting once again at the weekend after taking their lead over stuttering title challengers Roma to nine points.
Yet in Europe’s premier club competition, the two-time winners have yet to prove their worth: Juve crashed out at the group stages last season having been ousted by eventual champions Bayern Munich in the 2013 quarter-finals.
Juventus and Dortmund have some history in the competition: in 1997 the Germans famously beat the Italians, then defending champions, 3-1 in Munich and the clubs met several times before then.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are only now fighting their way back from a torrid start to the Bundesliga season, having secured a third consecutive win, away to VfB Stuttgart on Friday, to move further away from the relegation zone.
But while Chiellini warned of the threat posed by the Germans, he believes Juventus’s ambition to make the final stages of the competition will come to the fore.
“Dortmund have some good players, a few who played well at the start of the season are coming back from injury, but over two legs anything can happen,” Chiellini said to Rai television.
“We can’t afford to gift them opportunities to launch counter-attacks, because they have players who excel when you give them space – although that tactic can be very risky.
“At the start of the (German league) season, they conceded a lot of goals from open play.
“We have a lot of respect (for them) but we really want to win this game, progress and keep our European dream alive: we really feel stronger than in recent seasons.”
Dortmund may have flirted with the relegation zone earlier this season, but the Germans — currently 12th at 30 points behind Bundesliga pacesetters Bayern Munich — can be unpredictable when it comes to high-octane European meetings.
As they struggled to keep pace on the domestic front, Klopp steered his men to the top of Champions League Group D, scoring 14 goals and conceding just one defeat, to set up a last-16 clash with Juventus.
Borussia have now scored 10 goals in their last three league wins, but Juve are unbeaten at home all season and suffered their only defeat, away to Genoa, in October.
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri, for one, is pleased at how his side are coming through a “key” stage of the season.
“This is a key period in the season, but we’re coming through it nicely,” Allegri said after Friday’s 2-1 win over Atalanta, in which a trademark Andrea Pirlo free kick secured the points for the Turin giants.
“It’s satisfying to win these kind of games because it keeps your feet on the ground. For Tuesday’s game we’re in great form.”