PUNDIT’S PREVIEW: JUVENTUS V BARCELONA

Event: UEFA Champions League – Quarter final, 1st Leg

Date: Tuesday, 11th April 2017

KICK OFF: 7:45pm (Nigerian time)

Venue: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy

 

 

Serie A leaders Juventus will play host to FC Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie tonight.

 

After pulling off what is today, the most incredible comeback in football history over PSG in the last round, Juventus are all that stand in Barcelona’s way from reaching the semi-finals of the world’s most glamourous club competition.

 

The Blaugrana side looked set to be knocked out in the Round of 16 as they suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat in the first leg at Parc de Princes Stadium. They were completely outplayed by the Ligue 1 side, and it seemed that they were on the verge of an early exit.

 

History too, wasn’t in their favour, as no team in the history of the competition has managed to overturn a four-goal deficit to make it to the next round. However, inspired by a solid performance from Neymar, Barcelona beat PSG 6-1, and progressed 6-5 on aggregate though under controversial circumstances one must say.

 

They undoubtedly will go into this one as slight favourites against Juventus, but the Old Lady is unlikely to give Barcelona the innumerable goal-scoring opportunities PSG did in the second leg owing to their defensive solidity.

 

Juventus are expected to play like most Italian sides and maintain a compact shape, making it hard for the attackers to pierce through the rigid defence. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have been in good form in the Champions League, and will be hoping to continue their decent run in this game as well.

 

The Old Lady reached the final eight after a convincing, but low-scoring 3-0 aggregate win over Portuguese side FC Porto. Juventus won the legs by 1-0 and 2-0 scorelines. They are a force to be reckoned with at home, and Barcelona will not find it easy to break them down on Tuesday.

 

The hosts go into this one with the better absentee record, as Marko Pjaca remains the only player who is expected to miss out through injury. Apart from that, manager Massimiliano Allegri has a full-strength squad at his disposal.

 

The omni-present Gianluigi Buffon is likely to start in goal with former Barcelona faithful Dani Alves playing on the right side of a back four. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are near-certainties to start centrally with Alex Sandro playing as a left-back.

 

In central midfield, Sami Khedira is expected to partner Miralem Pjanic, with Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzukic playing on either flanks. Gonzalo Higuain is expected to lead the line with Pablo Dybala playing in-behind him.

 

On the other hand, the biggest miss for the visitors will be Sergio Busquets as he is suspended for the first leg against Juventus.Also,  Alex Vidal and Rafinha are set to miss out through injury, while it may be touch and go for Arda Turan, who still remains a major doubt.

 

In goal, Marc Andre ter-Stegen is likely to take up his station, with a back four of Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba ahead of him. Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta and Andre Gomes are expected to occupy the space in the middle of the park.

 

Moving forward, the MSN trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will start, with the focus on finding the back of the net as many times as possible. They have been solid in the Champions League, and it will be foolish to bet against at least one of them finding the back of the net tonight.

 

 

 

 

KEY STATISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS THE COUNTDOWN TICKS AWAY

-Juventus and Barcelona’s last encounter was in the 2015 Champions League final, the latter winning 3-1 in Berlin. However, the Catalans have yet to beat Juventus on their own soil in European competition (D2 L2)

 

-The Old Lady haven’t conceded a goal for 351 minutes, also the current longest run in the competition. Sevilla’s Nico Pareja was the last player to find the Turin nets, back in November.

 

-They have conceded fewer goals in the Champions League this season than any of the other seven sides still left in the competition (2 in 8 games). Both of those goals came from set-piece.

 

-Juventus are unbeaten in their last 17 Champions League home games (W10 D7), their longest ever run without a defeat in the competition on home soil. Bayern Munich are the last team to beat them, back in April 2013 (2-0).

 

-Only Barcelona (4) have been awarded more penalties than Juventus (3) in the Champions League this season.

 

-The Catalan giants have won 23 of their last 29 matches in the Champions League.

 

-Their defensive record has not been the best away from home as they have conceded ten goals in their last five games playing away from the Camp Nou.

 

-Neymar’s phenomenal performance against PSG is the reason why Barcelona are still in the Champions League, and he once again is the main man going into the game against Juventus. He has found the back of the net on four occasions in the Champions League this season, and is one of the go-to-men in the final third. Dani Alves will be hot on the heels of his Brazilian compatriot, but Neymar has what it takes to make the difference.

 

 

 

FORM GUIDE (all competitions, most recent first)

Barcelona: LWWWLW

Juventus: WLDWWW

 

 

 

VERDICT: It is hard to pick a winner here as Juventus’ home advantage almost nullifies Barcelona’s strength. The Old Lady have won 91 percent of their home games this season, and have not lost a single one. Also, they are on a fairly lengthy run without conceding in the Champions League, which could make it hard for Barcelona. However, the Spanish side are expected to grab at least one away goal from their travels to Italy. The two sides are too hard to separate and it may come down to individual brilliance, that may prove to be the difference on the night, if either of them do end up winning the first leg.

 

I don’t see Juventus losing this one and they could even shut out Barcelona i.e prevent them from scoring. Of course, they are capable.

 

 

 

RECOMMENDED BET: 1X & GG or 1X…

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