The Champions League is back to grace our screens with a mega encounter as Juventus travel to Camp Nou to face Barcelona.
Last season’s finalists Juventus will travel to Camp Nou as they face a revamped Barcelona squad. Since their defeat to Real Madrid, the Old Lady have picked themselves up but the prospect of going face-to-face with Barca in the Camp Nou can be a daunting task for any team at any point.
The home side started their season in a very lukewarm sense. They lost their first two competitive games under new manager Ernesto Valverde to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, but then managed to pick themselves up. Their 5-0 bashing of derby rivals Espanyol only goes to prove that they are eager to get back to winning ways pronto.
Juventus embarked on the new season in a similar fashion. They lost the Italian Super Cup to Lazio but have since gone from strength-to-strength, scoring goals while also conceding them. Juve were famous for having a tight defence last campaign but this time, it remains to be seen how the Italian giants fare.
Team News and Tactics
Ousmane Dembele will hope to make his first start for Barcelona after making his debut from the bench during last weekend’s 5-0 win over Espanyol. Rafinha will miss out on this game since he is yet to recover from injury, as will Arda Turan. However, Ivan Rakitic managed to play the full game against Espanyol and should be fit.
Barcelona lost Neymar over the summer, but the Catalan outfit signed Ousmane Dembele and the 20-year-old gave fans a glimpse of what he has in store by laying on a goal for Luis Suarez in the demolition of rivals Espanyol. Lionel Messi bagged a hat-trick in that victory and the Argentine will come into the match in fiery form.
With Messi getting his form back and Suarez returning from injury, the Spanish giants look well-primed to kick-start their European campaign. However, they will have to pay close attention to Juventus’ talisman Paulo Dybala, who had a major hand in engineering their collapse last season.
The Blaugranas are expected to line up in their traditional 4-3-3, with Ter Stegen in goal, shielded by a back four of Nelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba. A midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic support an attack featuring Ousmane Dembele, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Umiti, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Messi, Dembele, Suarez.
Gianluigi Buffon was dropped to the bench for Juve’s 3-0 victory over Chievo on Saturday, with Wojciech Szczesny taking his place, but the Italy goalkeeper is expected to return to the starting XI against Barcelona. Giorgio Chiellini is likely to miss out due to a calf injury while Claudio Marchisio and Marko Pjaca remain long-term absentees.
Meanwhile, Juan Cuadrado is suspended while Alex Sandro and Sami Khedira may not feature. Given the current situation of the team, Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Rugani, Medhi Benatia and Kwadwo Asamoah are expected to form the back line.
A double pivot of Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic will be expected to form the base of a solid Juve play-up. The outcome of the match is likely to be decided in the midfield and Juventus have in Matuidi and Pjanic, a unique combination of mental and physical strength, which can prove to be vital.
The biggest change in Juventus has been the shock sale of Leonardo Bonucci – and with Giorgio Chiellini out injured – they could be a lot more vulnerable to Barcelona this time round. They have won all three of their Serie A games so far, but they were tested in their first trip away and the upcoming trip to Camp Nou will certainly be tough.
Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Buffon, De Sciglio, Rugani, Benatia, Asamoah, Pjanic, Matuidi, Costa, Dybala, Mandzukic, Higuain.
- Barcelona have won their UEFA Champions League group on a record 18 occasions, and not once since 2006/07 have they failed to finish top of their section.
- This is Barcelona’s whopping 22nd Champions League group stage campaign, and 14th in succession.
- Meanwhile, for Juventus, it is their 18th Champions League group stage campaign and the sixth in succession.
- The Italian outfit have reached the knockout rounds in their last three attempts, having finished third in their sectionin 2013/14.
- Higuaín played 18 times against Barcelona in all competitions during his spell at Madrid, notching three goals.
Barcelona 2 – 1 Juventus
The match is highly likely to be a tight game, and with the form both teams are in, a highly-intense match seems to be on the cards. With the confidence boosting win they’ve both had over the weekend, the Catalans have only defeated their Turin counterparts once in the Champions League and that was in the 2015 final.
Now, Juventus face a an uphill test in the in-form Barcelona, and considering the hosts have won 15 and drawn one of their last 16 home games in the Champions League, THT predicts a nail-biting game which is ultimately likely to result in a 2-1 victory for the Spanish giants.