Juventus will look to start their UEFA Champions League campaign on a winning note as they travel to Spain to face Valencia in a Group H encounter.
Valencia have had an abysmal start to their La Liga campaign and find themselves just a spot above the relegation zone. They are winless in 4 matches, having drawn 3 of those. Valencia seemed to have carried over their pre-season form into the 2018-19 campaign and will hope the same is not the case in the Champions League.
Juventus have had a usual start. The Bianconeri have won all of their Serie A games thus far. But, it is what is expected of the defending league champions. The manner of the victories though, would not leave a sweet taste in the mouth of Massimiliano Allegri, the players and the fans, with most of the wins coming after a lengthy toil and with a narrow scoreline.
What matters though, is that Cristiano Ronaldo is off the mark for Juventus. Allegri has one of the most potent attacks at his disposal – an abundance of riches in the final third – and will hope that this pulls them closer to the UEFA Champions League trophy.
The two teams have never met each other at a competitive event. Ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Spain, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Marcelino will likely stick to his guns and the 4-4-2 formation that brought Valencia a lot of success last season. The defence will be depleted by the absence of Ezequiel Garay, who is still on the sidelines. But, Neto will have an able back four to protect him and the Valencia goal.
Gabriel Paulista and Mouctar Diakhaby should start as the centre-back pairing, with Cristiano Piccini and Jose Gaya lining up on either side of the pair.
Geoffrey Kondogbia came off early in the 0-0 draw against Real Betis over the weekend and is likely to sit this one out, which opens up a spot in midfield alongside club captain Dani Parejo. The slot should be taken up by Daniel Wass, who will offer a different dimension compared to the strong presence of Kondogbia.
Carlos Soler should start on the right. But, Goncalo Guedes is unlikely to be deemed fit enough to start the match, with Denis Cheryshev likely to get the nod. Rodrigo is one of the automatic choices in the starting lineup and will lead the attack for Valencia.
The Spanish international should be partnered by Kevin Gameiro, with Michy Batshuayi restricted to appearances off the bench so far.
Marcelino loves to play old school 4-4-2, which lays emphasis on fast transition from defence to attack while also asking the wingers to do ‘the dirty work’. The focal point of Valencia’s play will be Dani Parejo, who will be responsible for spraying the passes to the wingers in time to facilitate the transition.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Neto; Piccini, Gabriel, Diakhaby, Gaya; Soler, Wass, Parejo, Cheryshev; Rodrigo, Gameiro
Massimiliano Allegri has chosen to tinker his formation according to need and as per the quality of the opposition. The latest was a 4-3-1-2, with Paulo Dybala playing in a Trequartista role just behind the pairing of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic.
The front three should retain their places, especially after Douglas Costa’s spitting incident over the weekend. Giorgio Chiellini should return to the starting lineup to partner Leonardo Bonucci after being rested in the 2-1 win over Sassuolo.
Allegri went for a midfield three of Emre Can, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi. While Matuidi should retain his place, the other two players could be subject to rotation. Miralem Pjanic is certain to return to the starting lineup and Emre Can should be the one to make way for the Bosnian.
We could also see Rodrigo Bentancur being handed a start in the midfield three.
As witnessed in the games so far, the full-backs are responsible for providing the width as Massimiliano Allegri goes for an overload strategy in attack as the play builds up. Joao Cancelo has been fantastic so far and is expected to continue his good showing against his former club.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Matuidi, Bentancur, Pjanic; Dybala; Mandzukic, Ronaldo
1. Valencia have not made it past the group stage of the Champions League since a Round of 16 finish in the 2012-13 season.
2. Juventus, on the other hand, last failed to make it past the groups in the 2013-14 season, finishing third in a group consisting of Real Madrid, Galatasaray and Copenhagen.
3. Valencia have a decent home record in the Champions League, with only two losses in their last 10 home matches in the competition (5W, 2D).
4. Juventus have a better away record though, with only 1 defeat in their last 10 Champions League away fixtures (7W, 2D).
5. Cristiano Ronaldo has 15 goals and 4 assists in 17 appearances against Valencia in all competitions.
Player to Watch
Paulo Dybala has been afforded a chance to impress Massimiliano Allegri and cement his place within the starting lineup again. Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic have done enough to keep their respective spots week-in week-out. It is time for the Argentine to do the same.
Douglas Costa is set to be suspended for a lengthy time, which reduces Dybala’s competitors for the third spot in attack. A couple of strong displays could go a long way towards his permanent return into the starting eleven.
His movement and dribbling ability will be essential in breaking Valencia and their 4-4-2 formation down.
Valencia 2-4 Juventus
Valencia have a daunting task ahead of them. And judging by their recent domestic form combined with their standing Champions League form, it is tough for us to back the Spanish outfit, despite being at home. Nevertheless, we expect Valencia to trouble Juventus, as has been the case in almost all of their matches so far.
But, with Ronaldo having tasted the feeling of scoring in a Bianconeri shirt, it is an ominous sign of a Juventus win. We expect a thumping win for the away side.