Allianz Stadium, Munich
April 2nd, 20:45 GMT kick-off
The Champions League quarter-finals are upon us and boy has it thrown up a big one! European giants Bayern Munich and Juventus lock horns and it has all the makings of a classic. Two teams dominating their respective leagues and heading into this tie in blistering form. Bayern have the experienced head of Jupp Heynckes to guide them while Juventus are under the tutelage of one of the most exciting young managers in the European scene with Antonio Conte. Indeed, it’s a match up worthy of a final and you know the preparations from both sides will respect the magnitude of the occasion.
Team News and Tactical Brief
After that 9-2 thumping of Hamburg over the weekend it seems almost blasphemous to even think of Jupp Heynckes tinkering with his starting eleven but Juventus will be a completely different affair. As has been the case for most of the season, Bayern will be without Holger Badstuber. The German international has been out of action since December courtesy a ruptured cruciate ligament. Unfortunately for Heynckes, Badstuber isn’t the only unavailable player, with Javi Martinez’s yellow card against Arsenal earning him a one game suspension.
Manuel Neuer will be the custodian in goal with a back four of Philipp Lahm, Dante and David Alaba being the obvious choices in defense. Questions have been raised about Jerome Boateng and there is speculation that Daniel van Buyten might get the nod to partner Dante in central defense. Going up against a three man backline might surprise Bayern a little in the tactical sense but this will allow Lahm and Alaba a lot more space while attacking. With Juventus’ left flank being a little suspect, Lahm could hold the key while thundering forward. Going up against Lichtsteiner will be a handful for young Alaba but the Austrian has proven his mettle more than once before and will be keen to do so again. A lot will be decided on the flanks.
Martinez’s suspension means that Bastian Schweinsteiger will be partnered by Luis Gustavo in the heart of midfield. Although not on the same plane as Martinez, Gustavo’s defensive abilities will be most crucial if Bayern are to put a dent in Juventus’ midfield trio. With both Marchisio and Vidal tending to move forward often, Schweinsteiger will fancy a fair number of forward forays himself. The wings should be manned by Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller. Both these players have been in scintillating form this season and given Juventus’ 3-5-2 formation, they might well get more space to play with than most think.
Toni Kroos will complete Bayern’s midfield, slotting in behind the striker. Kroos’ attacking ability will undoubtedly be on show but the key role that the German international will play is that of keeping Andrea Pirlo at bay. Having played in a deeper role before, Kroos is no stranger to the dirty work in midfield and shouldn’t be too alien to the role of shutting down Pirlo. Heynckes has his hands full in choosing his striker for this fixture, especially after Claudio Pizarro’s goal fest over the weekend. Yet, it seems unlikely that the Peruvian will get the nod, leaving Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gomez as Heynckes’ options. Gomez has had injury problems and hasn’t been able to replicate his form from last season but his experience will be a massive advantage over the more consistent Mandzukic.
Proabable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Gustavo, Schweinsteiger; Müller, Kroos, Ribery; Mandzukic
For Juventus and Antonio Conte, the slender win away at Inter will give them a huge boost. Morale will be running high in the Juventus camp while enthusiasm is never dry when Conte is around. The Italian Champions have no suspensions troubling them and Martin Caceres is the only first team regular that doesn’t make the trip to Munich.
Whispers emanating from Italy suggest Conte is contemplating tinkering his formation. The aim here is to fit in Paul Pogba into the midfield. Pogba’s has grown in stature this season and is relegated to a bench role owing to the sheer quality of players ahead of him. But as these reports suggest, Pogba will be included so as to bolster the Juventus midfield and help them gain a foothold on the proceedings. One might question this idea as Juventus do have a winning formula and such a change comes with a major risk factor, especially keeping in mind the stage of the competition and the caliber of the opponents. For now, this looks fairly unlikely.
While the bulk of the possession has fallen their way in the league, Juventus have looked content with allowing their opponents the ball in Europe. This new philosophy has worked quite well for them as they dispatched off Celtic causing no real upset in Europe. They should adopt a similar philosophy against the Die Roten. It will be intriguing to watch Kroos carry out his assignment of shadowing Pirlo. The two did tussle with each other in the Euros when Germany met Italy with Pirlo coming out on top due to the generous amount of space Kroos offered him.
The defense remains untouched and will aim to remain compact. The wing-backs are vital in this clash as Bayern tend to exploit the quality of Ribery and Muller. Asamoah and Lichtsteiner have a tough job on their hands but a job they are nevertheless, capable of handling. Expect the Swiss International to be the more adventurous of the duo and support the forwards with his typically energetic runs. In attack, Vucinic is expected to start after shaking off a fever. It’s these kinds of games that bring out the best in the Montenegrin and Conte will turn once again to his enigmatic striker in the hope that he pulls off a vintage ‘big game’ display.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Giovinco, Vucinic
Players To Watch Out For
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The Frenchman has enjoyed an absolutely wonderful season this time around. Last season’s triple debacle will be something he wants to wipe out of his memory and what better way than to win the Champions League. Putting the sword to this solid Juventus lineup is a must if Bayern are to get through to the next round and who better to do so than a determined Ribery? Lichtsteiner is surely going to have a difficult night against the wily winger.
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Vidal was on Bayern’s radar before the Chilean opted to join Juventus. Since then, Vidal has gone on to establish himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe. Vidal embodies everything about Conte’s Juventus. Strong in the tackle, aggressive while capable of creating openings for his team-mates, Vidal ticks all the boxes of a complete midfielder. Expect him to rise to the occasion as he generally does during the big games.
Bayern Munich 1-1 Juventus
It will be entertaining, it will be fun as you expect when you have two of the best teams Germany and Italy have to offer showcasing their talents. Juventus will look to snatch an away goal while Bayern will do their very best to hopefully, for them, take a healthy lead to carry to Turin. A gritty low-scoring sdraw is on the cards but don’t be surprised if Bayern manage to edge this game.
Blast From The Past