An injury-plagued Barcelona go head to head with a full strength Juventus side tonight at the Allianz Stadium in their fifth Champions League Group D match.
As per the official squad list, the visitors have a number of players missing in action. Forward Ousmane Dembélé and midfielders Rafinha, Arda Turan, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes and Javier Mascherano are all set to miss out for Barcelona and haven’t travelled with the squad.
However, Ernesto Valverde has his first choice starting XI with him and fully fit, so the absentees shouldn’t bother him too much. Gerard Pique comes back into contention after serving a 1-match suspension, so that will undoubtedly come as a timely boost for the Catalans.
The two sides met in last year’s quarterfinals, where Barcelona lost the first leg 3:0 at this very stadium, before only managing a draw at the Nou Camp. Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Ernesto Valverde insisted that he didn’t consider his side favourites to come out on top.
He said “I don’t consider us to be favourites. It’ll be a tight match and I honestly don’t think there’s a clear favourite. Of course I’ve looked at last year’s loss,” Before adding, “They played well last year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have learned everything from what happened last year and we can turn it around this time.”
As for the hosts Juventus, according to their official squad list, Federico Bernardeschi is the only major absentee. due to muscle fatigue. Massimiliano Allegri rested some key names during last week’s loss to Sampdoria, and they will all likely return to the starting XI.
Paulo Dybala, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Alex Sandro and Blaise Matuidi are all expected to return to the starting XI. Speaking of their opponents in his pre-match press conference, Allegri insisted that the visitors had a better ‘balance’ going into the tie.
He, like Valverde also took a cautious approach, insisting that it would difficult tonight.
“Every match is unique and there aren’t two that are the same. I’m a practical coach and Barca haven’t lost in 14 league games and four Champions League games. They have only conceded twice and scored 22 so right now they have a greater balance than us. It will be a difficult match against them and we need to qualify, but nothing has been decided yet.”