Felix to lead charge as Atletico seek revenge on Juve
MADRID: Young gun Joao Felix will lead the charge on Wednesday (today) as his Atletico Madrid seek revenge on Juventus and their old enemy Cristiano Ronaldo in a potentially fiery UEFA Champions League opener.
Felix, touted as the heir to Ronaldo’s throne, will make his debut in Europe’s top competition when the when the Portuguese pair meet at the Wanda Metropolitano, with the La Liga outfit keen to shoot down the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Juventus dumped Atletico out of the competition last year as Ronaldo scored a sensational hat-trick that overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit and put the Italian champions in the quarter finals.
The former Real Madrid man rounded off the evening by celebrating provocatively in front of the away fans at Juve’s Allianz Stadium. Now Felix is charged with bringing the old master down a peg or two.
The 19-year-old has been hailed as the new ‘CR7’ after his breakout season at Benfica last year, scoring 20 times as the two-time European champions won the Primeira Liga and reached the Europa League quarter finals.
Ronaldo’s former manager at Madrid Jose Mourinho is convinced that Atletico bagged a “an incredible player” for a club record fee of 126 million euros ($142 million).
“I think he can cope. He seems to have a good personality,” said Mourinho. “He’s in a good team, surrounded by experienced players, with a manager who knows what he wants. Probably Atletico is a good place for his development.”
The noise surrounding Felix was amplified after a sublime pre-season that included a brace in a 2-1 win over Juve, but Felix has shied away from the comparisons. A poor display in Saturday’s 2-0 La Liga loss at Real Sociedad showed that despite the obvious promise, it is still too early to speak of Felix and Ronaldo in the same breath.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, is in a rich vein of form, with six goals in five matches this season for club and country, as he hunts a sixth Champions League title and aims to extend his record total of 126 goals in the competition.
On Wednesday, Felix has a chance to redeem himself and add to the one goal he has scored so far in Atletico colours, even if Ronaldo’s achievements seem a long way off. “I am here to write my own story,” Felix said. “Cristiano is Cristiano and I want to be myself”.
Meanwhile, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri will be hoping that his side, who have spent big to bolster their supporting cast around Ronaldo, starts their campaign with a victory. A tough Group D awaits for Juventus with Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow also lying in wait as they attempt to lift the trophy for a third time after 1985 and 1996.