Two giants in the European scene go head-to-head in the Round of 16 phase of the UEFA Champions League as Atletico Madrid host Juventus on Wednesday.
Both Atletico Madrid and Juventus had their fair share of troubles in the Group Stage. While Atletico Madrid finished second, with the highlight being a 4-0 bashing handed out to them by Borussia Dortmund, Juventus finished first but saw their undefeated home streak snapped by Manchester United.
Talking about recent form, Atletico Madrid are not in the best of shapes. Los Rojiblancos have lost two of their last three league games, one against arch-rivals Real Madrid and the other one a 1-0 loss to Real Betis. They did bounce back with a narrow win over Rayo Vallecano, but the two defeats have seen Diego Simeone’s men lose some steam in the title race.
Juventus, on the other hand, are in what you would call auto-pilot mode. The draw against Parma and the convincing defeat in Coppa Italia to Atalanta was somewhat surprising. But, Serie A has been smooth sailing for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, who are 13 points clear atop the league table.
The two teams will be hoping to gain a crucial first-leg advantage in the tie as Atletico Madrid host Juventus on Wednesday. Let us now dig deep into the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Likely to be set up in their usual 4-4-2 shape, Jan Oblak will guard the Atletico Madrid goal. The Slovenian is recognised as one of the best keepers in the world right now and it will be interesting to see how he fares against the world-class Juventus attack.
Filipe Luis, Jose Gimenez, Thomas Partey and Diego Costa are all one booking away from suspension and will have to be wary. Diego Simeone though, is likely to take the risk of fielding Luis and Gimenez at the back in hopes of gaining a first-leg edge, with Diego Godin and Santiago Arias completing the back four.
In midfield, Angel Correa is almost guaranteed a start on the right. Rodri has been one of the key players for Atletico and should start. Simeone has a choice to either risk Partey in this tie or go for Saul Niguez; we feel it will be the latter, with the manager reserving Partey for the decisive away leg. Thomas Lemar should continue on the left, despite Koke returning to training.
In attack, Diego Costa is unlikely to start, with Simeone admitting that he is not fully fit. Antoine Griezmann thus, will be partnered by Alvaro Morata, who will take up the second striker slot against his former club Juventus.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Arias, Gimenez, Godin, Luis; Correa, Rodri, Saul, Lemar; Griezmann, Morata
Sami Khedira joins Juan Cuadrado on the injury list. The German’s future as a professional footballer is uncertain after there were reports Juventus detected an irregular heartbeat. For now, Khedira is unlikely to take part as Juventus dig a bit deeper into his fitness.
Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will be the designated centre-back pairing after returning from their respective injuries and starting against Frosinone. Alex Sandro was suspended for the same game but should assume his role on the left side of the back four, with Joao Cancelo on the right.
Massimiliano Allegri has already confirmed that Paulo Dybala is set to start while Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo are near-certain names on the starting eleven, which means Juventus are likely to take the field in a 4-1-2-1-2 shape of sorts, with Dybala in the number 10 role.
Rodrigo Bentancur will be the designated defensive-minded midfielder, with Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi completing the lineup.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Bentancur; Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala; Ronaldo, Mandzukic
1. The two teams last met in the knockout phase of the UCL in the 2014-15 edition, with just one goal the difference between Atletico Madrid and Juventus over the span of two legs.
2. Atletico Madrid have conceded six goals in their last three home games in all competitions.
3. Juventus have conceded six goals in their last five away games in all competitions.
4. Both Juventus and Atletico Madrid kept four clean sheets in the Group Stage of the 2018-19 Champions League.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo has five goals and three assists in his last five games in all competitions for Juventus.
Player to Watch
Who else? The player, who was once regarded as one of the hottest properties in the transfer market, has cut a forlorn figure, first at Chelsea and now at Atletico Madrid. A return to Spain should reinvigorate the forward, especially when facing Juventus, a team he had huge success with and the club where he first showed he can be a prolific goalscorer.
Atletico Madrid need to add goals to their game and that is why Diego Simeone brought in Morata. Time for the Spaniard to show up.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Juventus
Juventus are heavily favoured at 1.52 compared to Atletico Madrid, who stand at 2.55, to go through in the matchup, for readers who are into football betting.
Juventus will be coming with the view of returning with at least goals, if not a win. Atletico Madrid on the other hand, will be looking to eke in a goal or two while focusing more on keeping a clean sheet. Diego Simeone’s teams are known to be miser in terms of conceding goals and it will be quite a task for Cristiano Ronaldo & co. to get the ball past Jan Oblak.
An entertaining draw, with goals in it, with odds of 3.05 is what we are going for.