The two best teams of last year’s Champions League go head to head in this massive Round of 16 clash. One of the Italian or German champions will get knocked out early in this year’s competition.
Juventus had a rough start to the Serie A campaign but have clawed their way back to the top of the table after an incredible run of 15 consecutive wins in Italy. At present only Bayern Munich can rival Barcelona for the title of the most complete team in Europe, and are coming into this game in good form. With Pep Guardiola’s exit from the Allianz Arena all but confirmed, he will be looking to end his brief Bayern adventure with a Champions League trophy.
Experience is key in such games and in this case Bayern Munich have plenty, although Juve were the finalists last year. Bayern have given up only three goals in total and were practically flawless in the group stages. Juventus were placed in a tough Group D but they did well until the final group stage match. They beat Manchester City in the home and away legs but lost to Sevilla in the last match to finish second. But this is typical of Juventus – they like a roller coaster ride and anything can happen with them.
Massimiliano Allegri v Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola has not yet lost to Massimiliano Allegri in 4 games. He has won two of them while the rest have ended in a draw.
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Allegri and Juventus’s tactical conundrum
The Bianconeri boss has some tough decisions to make ahead of the game against Bayern, as he is likely to miss some of his key players due to injuries. Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro and Mario Mandzukic are in doubt for this big first leg clash in Turin, and without them Allegri will have to make some tactical re-considerations. Without the experienced Italian international in defence, Juventus will switch to a back four with Martin Caceres out for the rest of the season and Daniele Rugani still not ready for such big games. There is also a concern that if any of the remaining three defenders face any problem, then a makeshift option will have to be used.
Allegri will have a tough time deciding which formation to start with, as both the 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2 have their own advantages and drawbacks. Juan Cuadrado will relish the 4-3-3 formation where he can play in his preferred position as a winger, but Alvaro Morata will have to sacrifice himself out on the left side of attack — a position where he has not performed well earlier this season. If Allegri were to choose the second option, then he will need a trequartista to play in the hole behind the two strikers. Roberto Pereyra looked rusty in the first half on Friday night against Bologna which is quite normal considering the fact he was out injured for so long. Apart from the Argentine, Juventus only have the ineffective Hernanes as the playmaker which makes it difficult for the Bianconeri coach to think of this formation. Allegri has some serious thinking to do ahead of Bayern’s visit on Tuesday.
Bayern Munich going through a bad phase as injuries pile up
Pep Guardiola’s dream of leading Bayern to the treble in his farewell season seems to be in serious trouble because of so many injuries in defence. Holger Badstuber was the latest to suffer following a training ground accident. He underwent surgery and will effectively miss the rest of the season. He joined his fellow German international Jerome Boateng and Spaniard Javi Martinez on the sidelines leaving Guardiola with very few options in central defence ahead of the first leg tie against the Italian champions. Despite domestic crowns, Guardiola arguably needs to win the Champions League this year for his tenure to be seen as a success, especially after Jupp Heynckes left after winning the treble in 2013. Injuries have been a persistent issue since Guardiola took charge, leading to ongoing friction with Bayern’s medical staff.
Bayern are well on their way to their fourth successive Bundesliga this season and have a semifinal against Werder Bremen in the German Cup. But it is the Champions League where the toughest tests await following their comprehensive semifinal defeats to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the previous two years. Bayern will face in-form Juventus forward Paulo Dybala with a broken defence. 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich, who has been filling in for recent games and has done quite well, is short on experience. He will line up alongside David Alaba in central defence who has shown tremendous versatility to fit into any role on the pitch. January signing Serdar Tasci has played only one game after joining on loan from Spartak Moscow on the last day of the winter transfer window. The makeshift defence will need to step up to overcome this tough test.
Leonardo Bonucci vs Robert Lewandowski
Season by season, Leonardo Bonucci has given stability to the Juventus defence while improving himself as one of the best defenders in Europe. Bonucci has stepped up his game and got rid of his concentration drops during the 90 minutes under Max Allegri. His tactical intelligence and ability to taket correct defensive positions in advance makes him tailor-made for the 3-man Juventus defence. He is Juventus’s defensive playmaker whose role is irreplaceable for Allegri. Bonucci combines excellent technical ability and composure with the ball at his feet. With regards to a trequartista, Allegri has a guaranteed success in the defensive playmaking role.
Robert Lewandowski has every quality needed to be a classic Number 9: height, strength, balance, intelligent movement and is a capable scorer with both feet. At the beginning of the season he hammered five goals past Wolfsburg in just nine minutes. He has kept the momentum going with 22 goals this season so far. Even though Bayern have glaring absences in their defence, they can rest easy thinking about their forward line as the Polish striker will need only a half-chance to get on the score sheet – such has been his form in front of goal this season.
Paulo Dybala v David Alaba
Paulo Dybala has been the chief protagonist for Juventus this season. Without him on the pitch, Juventus lacked sharpness and imagination in the final third against Bologna on Friday night. The Argentine is yet to make his mark in Europe, and the stage for the upcoming fixture could not be any bigger. Juventus start this game as second favourite, but if Dybala clicks then things can change quickly, particularly with Bayern having so many injuries in defence.
In the modern version of the game, versatility is an increasingly important quality. Coaches are always on the lookout for the complete player who will be able to cover multiple roles on the pitch. Guardiola is lucky to have such a player in David Alaba who will be asked to do a job in the centre of defence on Tuesday. The Austrian has shown adaptability and has done justice to various roles as a midfielder, fullback and now as a centre-back. Bayern have plenty of injuries to deal with at this moment, but Alaba will certainly not be just a makeshift option for Guardiola.
Sami Khedira v Arturo Vidal
Sami Khedira has emerged as a crucial player in this Juventus side and the Bianconeri have not lost a single game in which he has started. The German international does have his fair share of injuries, but when fit he has always delivered the goods. He is a true leader on the pitch and has earned the respect of his younger teammates like Alvaro Morata and Paul Pogba.
Arturo Vidal spent four wonderful years in Turin after his move from Bayer Leverkusen and it will be an emotional return for the Chilean midfielder. Nostalgia will play a part in this match and Vidal will have an important role in the middle of the park. Vidal knows a thing or two about the Juventus midfield, and his experience coupled with his time in Turin will make him a vital player for Guardiola’s system on Tuesday night.
Blast From The Past
Bayern Munich reached their third Champions League semi-final in four years after knocking out Juventus in 2013. Leading 2-0 from the first leg, the Germans were again comfortable as Mario Mandzukic headed in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free-kick before Claudio Pizarro slotted in later on.