Top spot in Group H of the UEFA Champions League will be on the line when Manchester United welcome Juventus to Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Group stage of the UEFA Champions League will reach its midway point this midweek with Matchday 3. The marquee encounter this week will see Manchester United play hosts to Juventus at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils hoping to usurp their visitors to take top spot in Group H.
Manchester United currently trail Juventus by two points in Group H of the UEFA Champions League after the first two matchdays. This difference is courtesy the drab goalless draw that the Premier League heavyweights played with Valencia, which allowed Juve to open up the lead atop the standings.
Their recent turnaround in form though, will give Manchester United a lot of confidence, having gone three games without ending up on the wrong side of the result. Their performance against Chelsea offers several positives, even if the final result left a bad taste in the mouths of Jose Mourinho and his charges.
Juventus, on the other hand, are sitting pretty atop the Serie A table, with closest challengers Napoli four points behind. But, the Bianconeri have not quite been at their best so far, which was also indicative in their 1-1 draw with Genoa this past weekend.
Manchester United were comfortable victors the last time they locked horns with Juventus, all the way back in 2003, when they recorded a 3-0 win in Turin. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter
Team News & Tactics
Jose Mourinho is grappling with a fair few problems ahead of the visit of Juventus. On Tuesday, the Manchester United boss could be without as many as six first-team players due to various injuries, chief among them being faced by Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean has been ruled out of the match against Juventus due to a minor groin injury, which is a huge blow for Manchester United, considering Jesse Lingard is another attacking player likely to be absent. The other unavailable players for the hosts are Diogo Dalot, Scott McTominay, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini.
Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia though, have provided some sort of a reprieve to Manchester United, as they returned to training on Monday. Meanwhile, the big decision for Mourinho will be the pick of his formation, with the performance against Chelsea suggesting that 4-2-3-1 could pave the way for more dynamism in attack.
The manager might just go ahead with the system that worked so well this past weekend, as a win over Juventus will take Manchester United a step closer to a place in the Round of 16, even though it will mean that he will have no forwards on his bench. As a result, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku should all start on Tuesday.
In midfield, the partnership of Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba will likely continue, with the former Juventus man having more defensive responsibility in the changed formation. In defence, the injury to Dalot and Valencia’s late return means Ashley Young will be the right-back again, with Luke Shaw starting on the opposite flank.
At the heart of the Manchester United defence, Chris Smalling is a certain starter, and he should have Victor Lindelof for company following the Swede’s positive showing this past weekend. David de Gea will be the first name on the team sheet as always.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Rashford, Mata, Martial; Lukaku
Massimiliano Allegri might not have as lengthy a health bill as Manchester United. But, the Juventus boss will still be without three key first-team players when the Italian champions pay a visit to Manchester United on Tuesday.
Emre Can (illness) and Sami Khedira (thigh) were already on the treatment table, and the duo have now been joined by Mario Mandzukic, who sustained an ankle injury during training on Monday. But, there is a major positive news for Juventus, who will welcome back Cristiano Ronaldo.
The former Manchester United superstar was banned for the Matchday 2 tie against BSC Young Boys following his dismissal in Juventus’s opening UEFA Champions League tie. Ronaldo should start upfront for the visitors, with Federico Bernardeschi likely to be the one replacing Mandzukic in attack.
The Italian international will likely be joined by Paulo Dybala, with the duo overloading the central areas in behind Ronaldo, which will allow Alex Sandro and Joao Cancelo, the likely full-back pairing, the space to bomb forward and provide the width.
Midfield domination will be key in the match, and the task of controlling the tempo of the game will fall on Miralem Pjanic, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi are expected to be the workhorses who will tirelessly work on and off the ball. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will be centre-backs looking to add to Lukaku’s frustrations, with Wojciech Szczesny manning the goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Dybala; Ronaldo
- This will be the first meeting between Manchester United and Juventus since the second group stage of the 2002-03 UEFA Champions League. United had won both games (2-1 at home, 3-0 away).
- The honours, meanwhile, are even in the head-to-head battle, with both Manchester United and Juventus winning 5 games apiece in 12 meetings (D2).
- Juventus have lost just two of their last 23 Champions League group stage games (W14 D7), with none of those defeats coming at the hands of English opposition.
- Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in both of their Champions League games this season. On the two previous occasions they’ve kept a clean sheet in each of their first three, they’ve ended up reaching the final (2008-09 and 2010-11).
- Former Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba has had a hand in all three of Manchester United’s Champions League goals this season (2 goals, 1 assist). This will be his first appearance against his former side.
Player to Watch
It will be an emotional homecoming for Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be up against Manchester United at Old Trafford for the second time since his departure in 2009. The game presents him the perfect opportunity to prove his credentials in the UEFA Champions League with Juventus for the first time, after his debut last month ended up being rather anti-climactic.
A stellar record against sides he has previously played for provides promising signs, with Ronaldo having a hand in seven goals (five goals, two assists) in six such UEFA Champions League ties, including two goals against Manchester United. Will Tuesday finally be the night when he breaks his Juventus duck in Europe, or will his former employers make Ronaldo wait a bit more?
Manchester United 1-1 Juventus
Two of the biggest sides in Europe will face off in a match with major stakes, even at this early stage of the UEFA Champions League. And, with Manchester United recently showing signs of improvement, this is a match that is difficult to call, although Juventus do hold an edge, even if it is ever so slight.
The Bianconeri are not only unbeaten so far this season. But, with a hungry and emotional Cristiano Ronaldo set to be unleashed, they could just be an impossible beast to contain. Manchester United though, have shown a resilient side to them, and their performance against Chelsea was a major statement, even though some issues remain unsolved.
We expect this tie to be another Manchester United tie being a game of two halves, with Juventus dominating the first 45 minutes before the hosts make their presence felt later on. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw, a result that could bring Valencia back into the picture.