Juventus will hope to win their first UEFA Champions League game of the season when they welcome Bayer Leverkusen to Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.
The UEFA Champions League is back with Matchday 2 of the Group Stage, and there are some enticing match-ups on offer on Tuesday. The marquee fixture in Group D will feature Serie A champions Juventus, who will play hosts to Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Stadium, with both sides looking for their first win in Europe this term.
Juventus have made a solid start to the season, winning 5 of their 7 games so far (D2). One of the stalemates came in the Champions League, as the Bianconeri were held to a 2-2 away draw by Atletico Madrid on Matchday 1. But, despite the disappointment of squandering two points, a draw in arguably their most tricky fixture of the Group Stage has to be seen as some sort of a positive.
Bayer Leverkusen too, have been steady in their first full season under Peter Bosz, having won four of their six Bundesliga games (D1 L1). But, it is the home defeat at the hands of Lokomotiv Moscow in their opening Champions League game of the campaign that would have left Bosz displeased. And, their task is only going to get daunting from hereon out, with Juventus and Atletico Madrid up next.
Bayer Leverkusen were victorious the last time they locked horns with Juventus, beating the Serie A giants 3-1 at home en route to the Champions League final. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri has seen his squad’s roster issues ease up ahead of the visit of Bayer Leverkusen. The Juventus boss is ready to welcome Alex Sandro back into the starting lineup after the Brazilian left-back missed out this past weekend against SPAL due to personal reasons.
With Sandro back in the side, Sarri will heave a huge sigh of relief, having played the weekend game without a recognised full-back. The Juventus manager, though, continues to be without the services of a right-back, with both Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio out with their respective thigh injuries.
In the absence of the duo, Juan Cuadrado is expected to continue on the right side of the Juventus defence. Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt should form the central defensive partnership once again ahead of Merih Demiral and Daniele Rugani. In goal, Wojciech Szczesny is likely to return, following Gianluigi Buffon’s record setting appearance against SPAL.
Meanwhile, Sarri has altered his formation lately to bring the best out of the players at his disposal. The width will solely be supplied by the full-backs, a task which should come naturally to Cuadrado and Sandro. In the middle of the park, Sarri has chosen to go with a diamond formation, so as to dominate the midfield battle.
At the base of this diamond, Miralem Pjanic is an automatic selection, with the Bosnian looking to pull the strings as the deep lying playmaker. Sami Khedira, who has found a new lease of life under the tutelage of the new Juventus manager, will reprise the role of a box-to-box midfielder, as will Blaise Matuidi, returning to midfield after playing as a makeshift left-back this past weekend.
Matuidi and Khedira will be the workhorses for Juventus, looking to use all of their experience to stifle the Bayer Leverkusen build-up play. At the tip of the diamond, Aaron Ramsey picks himself, having settled in well at his new side and impressed Sarri with his development.
Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo should form the strike partnership for Juventus, with Paulo Dybala returning to the bench, where he will have Federico Bernardeschi for company.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, de Ligt, Sandro; Pjanic; Khedira, Matuidi; Ramsey; Higuain, Ronaldo
Leon Bailey is the only absentee for Bayer Leverkusen ahead of their Champions League tie against Juventus. The 22-year-old winger is out with a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for another couple of weeks. But, the good news is that Karim Bellarabi is available after recovering from an illness.
Bellarabi, though, is unlikely to make the starting lineup, seeing as he only resumed training at the onset of the week. Peter Bosz, meanwhile, is expected to line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the focus being on sticking to their strengths of playing possession-based football.
Lukas Hradecky is a certain starter between the sticks for Bayer, with the four-man defensive unit in front of him bearing a familiar look after a bit of rotation on the weekend. The partnership of Jonathan Tah and Sven Bender is nailed on at the heart of the defence, while Lars Bender and Wendell should be the two full-backs.
Up ahead in midfield, Julian Baumgartlinger and Charles Aranguiz form the double pivot, with the duo looking to keep things tight in the middle of the park. The creative onus will be on Nadiem Amiri and Kai Havertz.
Amiri will sit in the hole, while Havertz will be deployed on the right side of the Bayer Leverkusen attack. On the opposite flank, Kevin Volland has excelled as a winger lately, allowing Lucas Alario to lead the line for Die Werkself.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hradecky; Lars Bender, Tah, Sven Bender, Wendell; Aranguiz, Baumgartlinger; Havertz, Amiri, Volland; Alario
- This will be the third contest between Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen, with the home side winning each time (Juventus 4-0 in November 2001 and Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 in March 2002).
- Juventus are winless in their last four matches versus German teams in the Champions League (D3 L1), their joint-longest such run in the competition. Bayer Leverkusen, on the other hand, have only won twice in 10 Champions League encounters with Italian opposition (D4 L4), while they are winless in five away games against Serie A opponents (D2 L3).
- 12 of the last 14 UEFA Champions League goals conceded by Juventus have been in the second half of matches, with eight of those coming in the final 20 minutes of matches.
- Bayer Leverkusen are unbeaten in each of their last five games on the road in the Champions League, although four have ended level (W1). Coincidentally, their last away defeat in the competition came at the hands of Italian opponents, AS Roma in November 2015 (2-3).
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 26 goals in 24 appearances against teams from Germany in the Champions League – no player has more against teams from a specific nation (Lionel Messi vs English teams, also 26).
Player to Watch
All eyes are invariably on Cristiano Ronaldo when he is on the field. But, this time around, the opposition has a player who has been touted to be one of the greats in the years to come, meaning some of the attention will also be on how Kai Havertz goes about his business against one of the best teams in Europe.
Already a star in his own right, the going has not exactly been great for Havertz in the Champions League, a record that he will be keen on setting straight this week. And, with Juventus being uncharacteristically suspect at the back in Europe lately, the 20-year-old might just be Bayer Leverkusen’s best bet at springing a surprise at the expense of the Bianconeri.
Juventus 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Matchday 1 served as a major disappointment for both Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen. The Italian champions will be kicking themselves for failing to hold on to a two-goal lead against Atletico Madrid, in a result that would have pushed them as the favourites to top Group D. Die Wekself, on the other hand, ought to have been more clinical to make good on their domination against Lokomotiv Moscow.
With both sides favouring a possession-based system, something will have to give, meaning there will likely be plenty of counter attacking opportunities on offer over the course of the game. In such a situation, Juventus come up trumps, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo eager to return to his best in Europe.
Bayer Leverkusen, though, are unlikely to go down without a fight and one expects the visitors to be in the game for much of the ninety minutes. In the end, Juventus should be good enough to prevail and The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Maurizio Sarri & co.