Milan (AFP) – Dani Alves is known for standing up for his beliefs, and Juventus will expect nothing less from their “champion” right-back when they host his former club Barcelona in a must-win Champions League quarter-final.
A month after spectacularly overturning a 4-0 first-leg defeat to Paris Saint-Germain to prevail 6-5 on aggregate, Barcelona’s Euro dream remains very much alive ahead of Tuesday’s first leg in Turin.
Even if, as Juve fans noted on Saturday with a fair amount of glee, the La Liga giants will lack their usual swagger following a shock 2-0 league reverse at Malaga in which Neymar suffered a rare sending-off.
For Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri, who saw Alves get his hands on the 2015 trophy following a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the 2015 final, Saturday’s defeat was a blip “not worth taking into consideration”.
“For me, it’s still the same Barcelona. When you have players like (Lionel) Messi, (Andres) Iniesta, (Luis) Suarez, and Neymar, you don’t mess up games very often.”
Allegri has called for a “fearless approach” as Juve look for a crucial first leg advantage, writing on Twitter: “Calm, fearless and knowing what we’re all about: coming next from Juve, a game that will leave all our fans in high spirits.”
But when it comes to spooking the Spaniards, long-time Barca servant Alves would likely win hands-down.
With a total of nine winners’ medals, Alves became the second-most decorated player in European competition, behind retired AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini, during an impressive eight-season career at the Camp Nou.
Before becoming the third-most expensive defender of all time when he joined Barcelona for 32.5m euros in 2008, Alves helped Sevilla to successive UEFA Cup wins in 2006 and 2007 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2006.
With Barcelona, he added six La Liga titles, four Spanish Cups, three Champions Leagues, three UEFA Super Cups and three Club World Cups to his impressive haul.
Although causing general surprise by joining Juventus last summer, Alves defiantly laid bare his true feelings only two months ago in Spanish newspaper ABC.
Alves claimed he had been used as a pawn by a “false and ungrateful” board before he took revenge by signing a renewal with a clause that allowed him the “classy stitch-up” of leaving the club for free.
“I like to be where I am wanted, and if I am not wanted then I’ll leave,” Alves said.