After falling at the hands of Barcelona two years ago, Juventus are now looking to exact revenge against the Catalan giants and punch their ticket through to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
With Barcelona rolling into Turin for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, Juventus have a tough task ahead. Last time the two sides met was in the 2015 final where the Spanish giants emerged victorious by a score of 3-1. This time around, however, with both sides having undergone plenty of changes over the last two years, the bianconeri will try and succeed where Paris Saint-Germain failed and eliminate Barcelona once and for all. With all their key men fit and raring to go, the ball is now in Juventus’ court. But will they perform?
Form (All competitions) –
Juventus – WWDLW
Juventus are going into this game in decent form having just beaten plucky Serie A side Chievo. Before beating the Flying Donkeys, the Italian champions played Napoli twice, once in the league and once in the Coppa Italia, both away from home. Juventus drew the partenopei in Serie A while they lost by a score of 3-2 in the second leg of the Coppa Italia. However, the narrow defeat was enough to see them through to the final on aggregate therefore they won’t lose too much sleep over the loss. Prior to the international break, Allegri’s men beat Sampdoria and prevailed past Porto in the round of sixteen of the Champions League. All in all, Juventus are coming into this one playing well and will like their chances.
Barcelona – LWWWL
Barcelona, on the other hand, are coming into this clash fresh off a defeat against 14th place Malaga. While Neymar was sent off in that clash, the same problems arose in the midfield for Enrique’s side and they struggled as a result. Against Juventus, they cannot afford to make the same mistakes as the bianconeri will punish them. Before their defeat at the hands of Malaga, Barcelona had won three straight and were once again playing their champagne football. When the match kicks off tomorrow, expect to see the Barcelona we’ve been accustomed to over the years instead of the one that lost this past weekend.
Juventus (4-2-3-1): Buffon; Alves, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.
According to reports, Allegri will use the 4-2-3-1 formation against Barcelona. As expected, Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic and Higuain are going to start in attack while Marchisio will start from the bench. In defence, Bonucci and Chiellini will get the nod.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Mascherano, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
With Sergio Busquets suspended, Luis Enrique is expected to give Javier Mascherano the start at the heart of the midfield over Portugal’s André Gomes. Otherwise, MSN will start in attack and Sergi Roberto will reportedly get the nod at right back.
Players to watch:
Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
With the eyes of the world on him, it is the perfect platform for Paulo Dybala to showcase every ounce of skill in him and lead Juventus to victory over Barcelona. La Joya most recently put in a man-of-the-match performance against Chievo and is clearly feeling it. Over this season, Barca’s defence has shown signs of vulnerability that Dybala will look to exploit. Playing between the lines, the former Palermo man will look to dictate tempo and create chances for Gonzalo Higuain. Ahead of Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic, Dybala will have ample time on the ball to do what he does best. If he succeeds, Juventus will like their chances in this one. If not, it might be a long night for Allegri and co.
I could have gone with pretty much anyone from MSN but believe Neymar deserves a special focus given his recent heroics for Barcelona in the Champions League. Fresh off his red card, the Brazilian will look to put his weekend blues behind him and put on a show for the Juventus faithful. Having practically carried his side past PSG in the second leg, Neymar has emerged out of Messi’s shadow. Against Juventus, the former Santos man will look to continue his good form in the Champions League and punch his side’s ticket to the semi-finals with a good performance. With Juventus’ defenders already having to deal with the threat of Messi and Suarez (you might have heard of them) a chance or two is sure to fall at the winger’s feet. The question is, will he make the most of them?
Given all the circumstances, this one could really go either way. One aspect of this tie that is flying under the radar is Busquets’ suspension. Without him in the midfield, Barcelona are a completely different side, one that Juventus could exploit. That said, the mere presence of MSN almost offsets their flawed midfield and vulnerable defence. Juventus, on the other hand, have holes of their own and have been conceding goals with more regularity recently. The safest wager is to bet that both teams will score, in what should be an entertaining tie. As a whole, since it’s at the Juventus Stadium, I’m giving the bianconeri a narrow edge.
Prediction: Juventus-Barcelona 2-1
(Bonucci, Dybala, Neymar)