Juventus will look to secure qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds when they face Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday.

Juventus will have the opportunity to become one of the first teams to secure qualification to the knockout round of fixtures in this edition of the UEFA Champions League this week when they face Lokomotiv Moscow. The Italian giants are standing at the top of the Group D table with seven points.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid also have the same number of points, and with the Spaniards playing Bayer Leverkusen in the other game, Juventus will look to seal a victory against third-placed Lokomotiv, who have only three points so far.

The visitors Juventus secured a narrow 2-1 win when these two teams last met in the reverse fixture back in Turin. But, things could tricky at the Lokomotiv stadium, although the hosts haven’t really played well, of late. They notably lost two back to back home matches against Akhmat Grozny and Spartak Moscow.

The Russian outfit have also failed to secure a single win in any of their last three matches in the competition. Hence, they won’t be confident of their chances against Juve this week. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the teams ahead of their match-up in Moscow.

Tactics & Team News

Lokomotiv Moscow

Lokomotiv Moscow manager Yuri Semin will likely miss out on at least five players heading into this game. That list includes key player Fedor Smolov along with Luka Djordjevic. Even the experienced Jefferson Farfan is out injured, meaning the hosts are more or less crippled in the attacking department.

Under pressure. (Photo courtesy - Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Smolov’s absence could be a huge blow for Lokomotiv. (Photo courtesy – Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Eder is the only available option in the number nine slot, and the Portuguese is a guaranteed starter this week. Coach Semin has tried to deploy Aleksey Miranchuk in a more advanced role, of late and we expect him to do the same against Juventus, due to the absence of Djordjevic and Smolov.

Despite the injury crisis in the offensive department, Semin will have the privilege of choosing from a fully fit defensive unit. The two experienced defenders Benedikt Howedes and Vedran Corluka are destined to receive a berth in the starting lineup. They could be partnered by Murilo Cerqueira, in the holding midfield role.

In midfield, Joao Mario could return, at the expense of Rifat Zhemaletdinov. The Portuguese midfielder, on loan from Inter Milan, will combine with Grzegorz Krychowiak and Dimitri Barinov.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Guilherme; Ignatjev, Corluka, Howedes, Rybus; Cerqueira; Mario, Krychowiak, Barinov; Eder, Miranchuk

Juventus

Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri is expected to shuffle his pack a little following a narrow win over Torino on the weekend. Matthijs de Ligt scored the only goal of the game, but looks set to miss this clash due to injury. The Dutchman could be replaced by Daniele Rugani, who will be partnered by Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of Juve’s four-man backline.

TURIN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 05: Daniele Rugani of Juventus in action during the Serie A match between Juventus and Benevento Calcio on November 5, 2017 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Rugani could be given an excellent opportunity to prove himself. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Danilo, meanwhile, is expected to replace the suspended Juan Cuadrado at right-back while the opposite flank will be occupied by Alex Sandro. The Brazilian will replace Mattia Di Sciglio.

Adrien Rabiot was included in the 20-man shortlist in the trip to Moscow. The Frenchman could be given a rare start, ahead of Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur in central midfield. He will form the three-man midfield setup alongside Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira.

Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey may start over Federico Bernadeschi in the lone attacking midfield role, though Paulo Dybala is also an option. And finally, the Juventus attack will be led by the offensive duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Rugani, Sandro; Rabiot, Pjanic, Khedira; Ramsey; Higuain, Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • Lokomotiv Moscow have lost all three of their European meetings with Juventus, losing twice in the 1993-94 season in the UEFA Cup and on MD3 this season.
  • Juventus’ last away European match against Lokomotiv Moscow was back in September 1993, winning 1-0 in a UEFA Cup first-round clash.
  • In European competitions, against no side have Lokomotiv lost more games than against Juventus (three, level with Atletico Madrid).
  • Juventus are winless in four away Champions League games, their worst run since going six without a win between April 2013 and October 2014.
  • Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri is currently unbeaten in his last 19 games combined in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League since a defeat in this competition with Napoli in February 2018.

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

Back to his old stomping ground, can Ronaldo condemn Manchester United to a defeat? (Photo by Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Ronaldo will be desperate to add to his scoring tally. (Photo by Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been a stale start to the season for the Portuguese sensation in the Champions League so far. He has scored only one goal in three matches, which is quite disappointing considering his lofty standards. But, a game against struggling Lokomotiv Moscow could provide him with an excellent opportunity to make his mark in the coveted tournament for the first time this season.

Aside from scoring, Ronaldo’s leadership and strength going forward could prove to be critical for a Juventus side, who will be up against a rigid, deep-defensive block system of Moscow.

Rabiot is another one worth looking out for, though it remains to be seen whether or not the Frenchman starts tomorrow.

Prediction

Lokomotiv Moscow 0-3 Juventus

Juventus haven’t been perfect this season. But, their strength in quality coupled with their opponent’s injury crisis means this could turn out to be a rather easy affair for the Bianconeri. And hence, we at The Hard Tackle expect them to seal a comfortable 3-0 victory.

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