Juventus will resume their UEFA Champions League campaign when they travel to France on Wednesday to face Olympique Lyon in the Round of 16 first leg.
Following a rough start to February, notably losing to Verona 2-1, Juventus have managed to turn things around with two back to back wins in Serie A. They are still leading the league table by one point and are coming on the back of a narrow win over SPAL on the weekend.
On Wednesday, the Bianconeri will brace themselves for yet another stern test against Olympique Lyon in the first leg of their Round of 16 clash in the UEFA Champions League.
Lyon haven’t had the best of campaigns, however, having accumulated only 37 points from 26 matches in Ligue 1, which means they are trailing leaders Paris Saint-Germain by a whopping 28 points. The French outfit has struggled to perform at home this season, which should be a worry for manager Rudi Garcia.
Indeed, only four clubs have performed worse than Lyon at home in Ligue 1 this term. Les Gones were also lucky to qualify for the Round of 16 as both SL Benfica and Zenit St.Petersburg were denied entry to the knockout stages by just one point.
Therefore, Juventus will be clear favourites when they travel to the Groupama Stadium to face Lyon. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of their important match-up in the Champions League this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Lyon are more than capable of producing an attacking masterclass. But, given the offensive firepower Juventus have, coach Garcia is likely to take a more cautious approach and try their best to not concede an away goal that would give the Italians a huge advantage going into the second leg.
That makes the two central defenders in Jason Denayer and Joachim Andersen an essential part of this fixture. Operating at the heart of the four-man backline, these two will look to defend deep and prevent the opposition from making inroads inside the penalty box.
Marcal, meanwhile, started as a left-sided centre-back in the win over Metz. But, the Brazilian could return to his customary left-back slot with Garcia likely to revert to a four-man backline. Kenny Tete will operate on the opposite flank.
Lyon signed Bruno Guimaraes in the winter transfer window. However, it is the duo of Thiago Mendes and Lucas Tousart that could form the second line of press for the home side. Their performance could be critical in preventing the technically astute Juventus midfielders from making an impact on the proceedings.
Unfortunately for Garcia, star man Memphis Depay is out injured along with Jeff Reine-Adelaide. That means Martin Terrier could operate at left-wing, partnered by Bertrand Traore on the opposite flank and Houssem Aouar in the middle, thus forming the Lyon creative unit while the attack will be led by Moussa Dembele.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lopes; Tete, Andersen, Denayer, Marcal; Tousart, Mendes; Traore, Aouar, Terrier; Dembele
Juventus have been boosted by the return of Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic and Giorgio Chiellini to the ranks. Chiellini made his return from injury in the game against SPAL, while Pjanic and Higuain have trained this week and travelled to France with the squad. It will be interesting to see if Maurizio Sarri thrusts them back into action right away.
Chiellini certainly won’t start this time around, meaning the defensive duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt could continue at centre-back. Maurizio Sarri could also persist with Danilo at right-back ahead of Mattia de Sciglio while Alex Sandro is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.
Pjanic’s potential absence, meanwhile, should pave the way for Rodrigo Bentancur to retain his place in the holding midfield slot. He will be tasked with the responsibility of mopping up loose balls and providing a sense of security for the backline.
Also in midfield, Aaron Ramsey is tipped to retain his place, but the same cannot be said for Blaise Matuidi, who could be replaced by his compatriot Adrien Rabiot. It will be interesting to see how the Frenchman performs on his return to France.
And finally, the Juventus attack could be led by Cristiano Ronaldo. But, with Higuain a doubt, Sarri could persist with a 4-3-3 setup, meaning the Portuguese sensation is tipped to be partnered by Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa, though Juan Cuadrado is also an option.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, de Ligt, Sandro; Rabiot, Bentancur, Ramsey; Dybala, Ronaldo, Costa
- Lyon are winless against Juventus in European competition (D1 L3), losing both of their home games against the Italian side by the same 0-1 scoreline.
- Lyon have been eliminated by Italian opposition in the Champions League knockout stages on both previous occasions they have met. (AC Milan in 2005/06 and AS Roma in 2006/07).
- Lyon have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League more times than any other French club (11). However, it’s been ten years since they progressed past the Round of 16.
- Juventus are in the Champions League knockout stages for the sixth straight season, their longest ever run in the last five campaigns.
- Seven of Lyon’s last eight Champions League home games have ended in a draw, four of them with a 2-2 scoreline. Juventus were the last side to beat them on home soil in the competition in October 2016.
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The Champions League is one of Ronaldo’s favourite competitions. In fact, the Juventus attacker is currently its all-time top-scorer with 128 goals. This is significantly more than second-placed Lionel Messi, who has netted 114.
Either way, Ronaldo will be keen on making an impact once again in this coveted tournament. And with the knockout stages already underway, this could be an excellent opportunity for him to prove his credentials.
What makes the ex-Real Madrid superstar such a key player in this fixture is the fact that he is coming on the back of a goal-scoring performance in the 2-1 win over SPAL, where he scored the opener. He is also Juventus’ top scorer this season. And coming up against a relatively weak-looking Lyon defence, Ronaldo could definitely cause terror this midweek.
Olympique Lyon 0-0 Juventus
It is needless to point out that this will be a significantly difficult test for Olympique Lyon. But, at the same time, Juventus have been far from brilliant this season. In fact, they are sort of lucky to still lead the Serie A table, and with that in mind, we expect this fixture to turn into a cat and dog chase. A scoreless draw could pretty much be on the cards.