Valencia travel to face Juventus on Tuesday in a Champions League encounter where anything less than a win could spell doom for their qualification hopes.
Juventus bounced back from their shock 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League with a 2-0 win over AC Milan in what was once labelled as a fierce rivalry. The Italian giants followed it up with a nervy 2-0 win over SPAL and would now be eager to secure their passage into the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Valencia have found some footing, with three wins on the trot. What has helped though, is that all three of their opponents were down to 10 men in their respective matches. So, it remains to be seen if Valencia can actually replicate their form when the opponent has 11 players on the pitch, let alone the superstars that Juventus possess.
Marcelino’s men still have a fair chance of qualifying to the knockout phase. But, with Manchester United expected to win against Young Boys, Valencia will have to secure a win over Juventus in order to keep their hopes alive. Anything less and a win for United in the other fixture in Group H will condemn Valencia to Europa League football.
Juventus would rather be hoping to secure first seed in Group H, a prospect which might come under threat should they not manage to register a win on Tuesday.
We take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Massimiliano Allegri has chosen to field different formations in different games so far in the 2018-19 campaign. But, the 4-4-2 did not yield the desired result against Manchester United and we should see Juventus line up in a rather offensive way, with 4-3-3 the likeliest formation.
Giorgio Chiellini and Joao Cancelo were rested during the weekend’s 2-0 win over SPAL. The two stars should return, with Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro completing the back four.
Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic are almost guaranteed to start in midfield. The third spot is not up for much debate, especially with Emre Can and Sami Khedira on the sidelines. Rodrigo Bentancur should fill in.
Up ahead in attack, while it is a 4-3-3, on the field it should convert into a rather 4-3-1-2 lineup, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic upfront and Paulo Dybala operating in the hole.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cancelo, Chiellini, Bonucci, Sandro; Pjanic, Bentancur, Matuidi; Dybala; Ronaldo, Mandzukic
Marcelino has always preferred the classic 4-4-2 formation and that has been one of the massive contributors to Valencia’s renaissance under the manager after years in La Liga wilderness that is the mid table. But, their results this season have been a far cry compared to the previous one, with the players not really in the best of forms individually.
Incidentally, they haven’t lost much either, recording eight draws in their 13 La Liga games so far. Their recent form though, might signal a bit of a change and Marcelino would be hoping to use Juventus as a springboard towards better performances.
The only change in the back four could be Ezequiel Garay coming into the lineup to replace Mouctar Diakhaby. In midfield as well, we should see just one change, with Geoffrey Kondogbia coming in for Francis Coquelin, despite the latter’s brilliant performance over the weekend. Michy Batshuayi should partner Rodrigo Moreno upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Neto; Wass, Paulista, Garay, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Guedes; Moreno, Batshuayi
1. Each of Valencia’s last three opponents in all competitions have not managed to finish the game with 11 men on the pitch.
2. Despite being 11th on the La Liga table, Valencia have lost the same number of league matches as Barcelona (2), in fact one less than table-toppers Sevilla.
3. Juventus are yet to taste defeat in Serie A and have already opened up an eight point gap just 13 games into the season.
4. The disparity between the two teams is in their scoring pattern. Valencia have scored just 15 goals in La Liga and Champions League combined, with 3 of those coming in their 3-0 win over Real Sociedad over the weekend. Juventus on the other hand, have 35 with an average of more than 2 goals per game.
5. After a slow start to his Juventus career, Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored or assisted in 11 of his last 13 games in all competitions. Incidentally, one of the two where did not contribute was in Juventus vs Valencia earlier on in Spain, wherein the away side notched up a 2-0 win despite the red card.
Player to Watch
The Batman has not hit the right stride of form at Valencia like he did last season on loan at Borussia Dortmund. With just 2 goals to show for his efforts in 15 appearances, the striker needs to step up, especially with other players also missing their scoring boots, to an extent.
There was nothing The Batman could not do at Dortmund and it is about time he arrived. Valencia need a hero.
Juventus 2-2 Valencia
Valencia’s urgency and need to win should make this a contest. Juventus would also be looking to keep hold of their top spot in Group H. Champions League often throws in surprises and while Valencia have all the accessories to make it one on Tuesday night, Juventus will be wary of making the same mistakes they committed against Manchester United.
Expect a scoring encounter, with a draw the likeliest result.