Today, Juventus host German giants Bayern Munich at the Juventus Stadium in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16.
This is the Chaaaaaaaampions. The stakes cannot be higher as Bayern Munich are in town looking to put an end to Juventus’ European dream. Last time these two met in Europe’s elite competition, Bayern prevailed easily but both teams were very different. A certain Antonio Conte was on the bianconeri’s sidelines while Mario Mandzukic, who is now a Juventus player, was leading the line for the Bavarians. Not to mention that Alessandro Matri was a set starter for the Italians. You can’t expect to beat Bayern with him, can you? In any case, this clash should be a much closer affair as both teams are in red-hot form and act as the standard in their respective leagues.
Juventus – WWWWWD
Juventus’ 15-game winning streak has come to an abrupt end after a stalemate against Bologna on the weekend. The Italian champions were lacklustre in that game and failed to create anything of note outside of Paul Pogba’s cross across goal late in the game. While they won’t admit it to the media, Allegri’s side had their eyes firmly set on their Champions League clash with Bayern. When it comes to their Champions League form, Juventus closed the group stages with a narrow loss to Sevilla. Prior to the defeat to the Spaniards, the bianconeri dispatched of Manchester City by a score of 1-0. The truth is, however, that those games were a few months ago and don’t tell us much. What we do know is that Juventus’ players will be more than up to the test when the referee blows the initial whistle and will be raring to go.
Bayern Munich – WWDWWW
Much like Juventus, the Germans have been in fantastic form over the past few months and have opened an eight point lead at the top of the league. This buffer between them and second place allows them to focus their efforts on winning the Champions League. Their Champions League form has been very similar to their Bundesliga form. Guardiola’s side finished their group stages with three convincing wins against Arsenal, Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb. Despite their long injury list, they will be going into the Juventus Stadium hoping for the same result as last time they were there. Given their current form and overall pedigree, you wouldn’t put it past them to achieve this.
Probable Formations –
Juventus (4-4-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Evra; Cuadrado, Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba; Mandzukic, Dybala.
Bayern Munich (4-1-4-1): Neuer; Lahm, Kimmich, Alaba, Bernat; Xabi Alonso; Robben, Muller, Thiago, Douglas Costa; Lewandowski.
Probable lineups via Sportsmediaset.it.
Tactical Battle –
Allegri will likely go with his hybrid 4-4-2/4-3-3 formation against Bayern as he has enjoyed plenty of success with it in Europe. In defence, the Italian champions will dare Bayern to try and penetrate their two banks of four. When they win possession, however, the bianconeri’s shape gets interesting. This is the case as Juan Cudrado pushes up and Paulo Dybala does Paulo Dybala things. What I mean by that is that the Argentine enjoys a free-roam role and drifts just about anywhere on the pitch where there is space. Another important addition to the lineup is the return of Mario Mandzukic. The Croatian is crucial to Allegri’s setup as he offers an aerial outlet and compliments Dybala in a way that Alvaro Morata simply can’t.
Trying to understand Guardiola’s tactics, on the other hand, is a different animal altogether. At Guardiola’s Bayern, his fullbacks have traditionally got involved a lot. Against Juventus, this should be no different as Lahm and Bernat will be doubling up down the line with their respective wingers. As a result, a lot of the game will be decided on the wings where Douglas Costa and Argen Robben will operate.
Talking about Bayern’s tactics and not discussing Thomas Muller would be a crime in itself. The German international, like Dybala, roams around the pitch freely and is always, and I mean always, in the right place at the right time. Juventus will need to nullify his influence if they are to have a chance at progressing in this tie.
Key Matchup –
Marchisio vs Xabi Alonso –
Games at the top level and especially in the Champions League, are won and lost in the midfield. This applies to this Champions League clash perfectly. At the end of the day, it will come down to who can hold on to the ball better than the opposition. Pretty simple, right? Well, not quite. When it comes to doing this, Bayern and Juventus have some of the best players in the world in Claudio Marchisio and Xabi Alonso. The veteran Spaniard has an immense range of passing and is as tactically adept as they come. Marchisio, by contrast, is in his first full season at the regista position and is loving his new role. At the heart of the midfield, il Principino’s industry and overall defensive awareness has proved crucial to Allegri’s setup. Today, he will need to be at his very best against Bayern to get the better of Xabi Alonso.
Ughhhhhhhhhhhh, I hate making predictions. Typically because I don’t get them right that often but that’s besides the point. Throw teams like Bayern Munich and Juventus into the mix and this one gets much more difficult to call. That said, the game is in Italy and the German giants have a bit of an injury crisis at the back. When the match kicks off, expect Allegri’s men to take full advantage of this and exploit their weakness. However, it is still Bayern Munich we’re talking about and they’ll probably score a goal. I mean, they do have Lewandowski on the pitch. For this reason I’m going with, drum roll please, a 2-1 Juventus win.