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Juventus’ solid defence will be key as Italians test mettle of Mbappe-led Monaco

The have cut down Barcelona to size and will stride into the semifinal with that bragging right in mind.

Juventus, hopefully, won’t let that feat go in their head when they host Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal tie on Thursday.

Massimiliano Allegri’s men will be attempting to dispatch the French side as they got the favourite’s role following their superb dispatching of the Catalans in the quarterfinals.

But Monaco, the Ligue 1 leaders, may play the underdogs’ role with an attitude that could surprise the Italians along the way.

Leonardo Jardim’s men face Juve at Stade Louis II in the opener and hope to draw first blood against the visitors.

Twice did both sides have met in the tournament, during the 2015 quarterfinals where Juve won their first game 1-0 and then settling for a 0-0 draw in the second leg.

Two years have passed and they are here again to renew that matchup.

Juve may have impressed so much in eliminating Barca 3-0 on aggregate but in Monaco, they could encounter a side who defends well and can control the tempo when given the opportunity.

The French ousted Premier League team Manchester City on away goals by 6-6 aggregate in the round of 16 and then produced two brilliant wins over Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund to progress to the last four.

Monaco now have a talisman to rely on. That is none other than 18-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe, who also plies his trade with the French national squad.

Despite his young age, the striker has already impressed a lot with the way he plays, displaying composure of a veteran on the big stage.

He scored twice against City, and thrice, including a brace in the second leg, against Dortmund to become the first player in the history of the tournament to find the back of the net in his first four knockout stage games.

But this we have yet to see: if Mbappe, and his teammates, can work against the hard-to-breach backline of Juventus powered by the so-called “BBC Trio’’ of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

Bonucci and Chiellini in particular were mainly responsible in shutting down Barca’s “MSN’’ troika of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in the second leg where the Catalans aimed to produce another miraculous comeback as they did against Paris Saint Germain in the last 16.

Not only that, Mbappe will be tested to the hilt in case he challenges veteran Juve goalkeeper Gianluggi Buffon, 39, who claimed he relishes the chance to play against the youngster.

And then Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain will present more problem for the French as they lead a Juve attacking threat.

Against Messi and Co., Juve did not concede a single goal over two legs. Can they do the same against Monaco?

Juventus last won the Champions League in 1996. That may be too long a time having been in drought.

Eliminating Monaco in their semi-final duel will be a massive step for the veteran Italians in finally ending a long wait and claiming European glory again.

Can the youthful French side face offer stiff resistance against Juve?

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