Turin: Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo has described Champions League semi-final opponents Real Madrid as the "most important club side in the world", but insists his team will face the holders without fear. Less than 48 after clinching their fourth successive Serie A crown, Juve are re-focusing their efforts on Europe, where they are hoping to reach their first Champions League final since 2003.
Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Pic/Getty Images
Standing between them and a place in the showpiece, though, are Spanish giants Real, who were crowned European champions for a record 10th time last season. It is a tough test for Juve, who are still in the running for the treble this season, but Pirlo is in optimistic mood ahead of today's first leg in Turin.
"We have the same chances as they do to progress," Pirlo said on his club's official website. "We weren't ready for the Champions League in previous years. But this team has gained experience and we know we can do well and play without fear. "Now that we are here, we want to go all the way. To win it would be a dream come true, for me and for my teammates."
Pirlo, who has played in seven European semi-finals and won the Champions League title twice at AC Milan under current Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, knows the Spaniards must be respected, though. The 35-year-old added: "Real are the most important club in the world. They have a lot of experience in this type of games and have a team of champions."
Juve are unbeaten at home in European competition this season and have won five and lost just one of their seven meetings with Real in Turin. The previous time the two superpowers met in Italy was in last season's group stages, with the game ending 2-2.
First leg crucial
"The first leg is crucial and we'll need to play with intelligence as we have done in recent years," Pirlo said. "We'll be mindful but also show some swagger, because we have a dream to fulfil and nothing to lose, but also aware that there's a second leg to follow."
The hosts will be without midfielder Paul Pogba, who has been sidelined since March with a hamstring injury. Real go into the contest without the services of midfielder Luka Modric and striker Karim Benzema because of injuries as they look to end a run of seven successive trips to Italy without a win. However, Ancelotti does have Gareth Bale back.
Ancelotti's presence will help us: Kroos
Real Madrid's midfielder Toni Kroos believes the presence of manager Carlo Ancelotti in their dugout will help them against Juventus. Ancelotti was in charge of Juve from 1999 until 2001 before joining Milan. "We have an Italian coach that knows Juventus very well," Real midfielder Toni Kroos said. "I think that will help us. We are going to do all that we can to reach the final knowing that no club has managed to defend the Champion League crown. This is our biggest challenge."
Form: Juventus clinched their 31st Italian title on Saturday thanks to a 1-0 win over Sampdoria, their eighth win in the past 11 games. The Bianconeri can now focus on the Champions League, where they are seeking Euro renaissance, after crashing out embarrassingly in the group stage last season and losing 4-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals two years ago. Juventus may be seen as the weakest side of the final four and not boast a team of superstars but they have the experience, having won the Champions League in 1985 and 1996.
Real Madrid still have some domestic duties as they trail two points behind Barcelona in their quest to reclaim the Spanish Liga crown for the first time since their last title in 2012. Carlo Ancelotti's men are unbeaten in their last nine games but toyed with fire against Sevilla (3-2) on Saturday. They head to Turin without midfielders Luka Modric and Sami Khedira while striker Karim Benzema, who is just back after a knee injury, is also sidelined.
Coaches: Juventus - Massimiliano Allegri (ITA) -- 47 yrs Real Madrid - Carlo Ancelotti (ITA) -- 55 yrs
Domestic league performance: Juventus - Top of Serie A, already crowned champions with four games left to play. Real Madrid - Second in La Liga, two points adrift of Barcelona.
Road to quarter-finals: Juventus - Runners-up in Group A behind Atletico Madrid. Beat Borussia Dortmund 5-1 on aggregate in the last 16 and Monaco 1-0 in the quarter-finals. Real Madrid - Winners of Group B ahead of Basel. Beat Schalke 5-4 on aggregate in the last 16 and Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
European Cup/Champions League best performances: Juventus - winners 1985, 1996 Real Madrid - winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014
Other honours: Juventus - 31 x Italian champions, 9 x Coppa Italia winners, 6 x Italian Supercup winners, 1 x Cup Winners' Cup winners, 3 x UEFA Cup winners, 2 x UEFA Supercup winners, 2 x Intercontinental Cup winners Real Madrid - 32 x Spanish champions, 19 x Spanish Cup winners, 10 x Spanish Super Cup winners, 2 x UEFA Cup winners, 2 x UEFA Super Cup winners, 3 x Intercontinental Cup winners, 1 x Club World Cup winners
Previous meetings: Juventus 0 Real Madrid 1 - 1961/62 European Cup quarter-final, first leg Real Madrid 3 Juventus 0 - 1961/62 European Cup quarter-final, second leg Real Madrid 1 Juventus 0 - 1986/87 European Cup second round, first leg Juventus 1 Real Madrid 0 (after extra time, Madrid win 3-1 on pens) - 1986/87 European Cup second round, second leg Real Madrid 1 Juventus 0 - 1995/96 Champions League quarter-final, first leg Juventus 2 Real Madrid 0 - 1995/96 Champions League quarter-final, second leg Juventus 0 Real Madrid 1 - 1997/98 Champions League final Real Madrid 2 Juventus 1 - 2002/03 Champions League semi-final, first leg Juventus 3 Real Madrid 1 - 2002/03 Champions League semi-final, second leg Real Madrid 1 Juventus 0 - 2004/05 Champions League round of 16, first leg Juventus 2 Real Madrid 0 - 2004/05 Champions League round of 16, second leg Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1 - 2008/09 Champions League group stage Real Madrid 0 Juventus 2 - 2008/09 Champions League group stage Real Madrid 2 Juventus 1 - 2013/14 Champions League group stage Juventus 2 Real Madrid 2 - 2013/14 Champions League group stage