MADRID – Juventus’ Argentina playmaker Paulo Dybala paid tribute to Portugal superstar and teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, saying his squad expected a difficult tie versus Spain’s Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
Atletico was set to play Juventus on Wednesday at the Spanish side’s home pitch, the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, in the Spanish capital.
“I have had the chance to play alongside Lionel Messi (with the Argentina national team), and now I am playing with Cristiano Ronaldo,” Dybala said during an interview with UEFA media channels.
“There are not many (players) of us who have had that opportunity,” the Argentine talent added. “It is a positive thing because you can always learn from the best.”
Ronaldo joined Juventus over the summer on a four-year deal, coming from UEFA Champions League three-time defending champion Real Madrid for a reported 112 million euros ($131 million).
Dybala explained that Ronaldo was a “laid-back and normal guy, like the rest of us.”
“Despite all he has achieved throughout his career, he has always been very gracious in the dressing room,” the player added. “That helps to make you feel comfortable when you are in the presence of such a player.”
In regards to Wednesday’s encounter, the Argentine player admitted that playing the capital team on the Spanish club’s home turf would be no easy mission for the Turin side; yet, Dybala stressed, any team which aspires to claim a Champions League title should to be able to get past any opponent.
“Atletico is very strong defensively and is very good on the counter,” Dybala said. “If you are not alert defensively, it has got players who can wreak real havoc.”
“The same goes for us,” he added. “We know where our strengths lie and they will likely be working hard to try and make sure we do not do them any damage.”
Dybala stressed that Juve knew Atletico’s style and tactic, adding: “To reach the final and win this competition, you have to beat whoever is in front of you and you are never going to have any easy games.”
Dybala joined Juventus in the summer of 2015 and reached the 2016-17 Champions League final with the Italian giant, losing it to Real Madrid.
“We are clearly contenders, but we have to go out there and prove it,” Dybala stressed, “Soccer is a sport that always offers you the chance to make amends and I think we will have that opportunity.”
Dybala also underlined he had learned a lot playing under Juve’s Italian coach, Massimiliano Allegri, confirming that the manager always gave him the freedom to change his position during the games.
“I have learned a great deal from him, particularly in terms of the way we work, how to be a model professional and being fully focused during training so that you know what to expect during games,” the player added.
Juventus was set to land in Madrid later Tuesday, after they completed a morning session practice in preparation for Wednesday’s match.