An uninspiring Juventus side travels to Sweden to take on Malmo in their Champions League group H opener at the Eleda Stadion.
It is now three weeks since Juventus began their 2021-22 campaign and the Old Lady are still searching for their first win of the campaign. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have picked up one draw and lost two times already.
The Italians now travel to Sweden to take on Malmo FF in their 2021/22 UEFA Champions League opener. Despite their domestic domination in recent years, the Turin giants are yet to experience success at the continental stage. With Cristiano Ronaldo no more at the club, the task has, if anything, gotten harder. Drawn alongside defending champions Chelsea and Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg, Juventus cannot afford to take results for granted.
Tuesday’s clash at the Eleda Stadion will pit two sides who are winless in three games against each other. The defeat to Empoli showed Juventus to be susceptible to a surprise and Malmo will look to take full advantage of that. The Swedish giants are no pushovers, even though they are without a win in their last three games in all competitions.
Juventus are, on paper, comfortably the better team. However, they are yet to reach top gear and are currently floundering in the dark. Whether a win in Sweden is what they need to turn the tide around remains to be seen
Juventus made an unceremonious exit in the last 16 of the competition last season. Ronaldo may be gone but the Italians have the talent at their disposal to begin afresh a new era. Whether the first vestiges of another dominant spell will begin this Tuesday at the Eleda Stadion remains to be seen.
This is the second time that both teams have been drawn together in the Champions League group stages. Juventus did the double over Malmo in the 2014/15 campaign, winning both games 2-0.
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The Swedish champions will be without three players – Ola Toivonen, Jonas Knudsen and Johan Dahlin. The trio of Oscar Lewicki, Sergio Pena and Niklas Moisander is also doubtful for the game. John Dahl Tomasson’s side have lost one of their last 13 home games and pack a punch when playing in front of their own fans. Juventus are currently in a sticky spot and could be there for the taking.
Malmo could set up in a 4-2-3-1 system that will help them gain a foothold in the midfield. With Dahlin out, Ismaila Diawara is set to continue in between the posts. Franz Brorsson and Anel Ahmedhodzic look set to start in the heart of the defence and will be flanked by Martin Olsson and Erik Larsson on the flanks.
The midfield double pivot of Bonke Innocent and Erdal Rakip will need to step up and make themselves count. This will prove especially key should the Italians drop deep to bring the ball out of defence. Juventus has struggled to score goals this season and cutting off the service from midfield could see them struggle. Getting stuck in early on could set the stage for a difficult night for the Italians.
Malmo have two aces up their pocket in Antonio Colak and Veljko Birmancevic. The duo has linked up well in recent games and could prove lethal on the counter. The Swedes are certainly capable of landing the sucker punch and Juventus will need to ensure they go into the game well prepared.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Diawara; Larsson, Ahmedhodzic, Brorsson, Olsson; Rakip, Innocent; Rieks, Christiansen, Birmancevic; Colak
Massimiliano Allegri goes into the game sans Italian international Federico Chiesa. The Euro 2020 winner has been one of the Old Lady’s best players and his absence could prove detrimental in the attack.
Kaio Jorge and Arthur are also injured and not in contention for the game. Juventus will however welcome back Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala, Danilo, Alex Sandro and Rodrigo Bentancur. The South Americans returned late from international duty and were unavailable at the weekend against Napoli.
Welsh superstar Aaron Ramsey was on the bench at the weekend and is available. With Chiesa out injured and Ronaldo no more at the club, the onus to make the difference up front falls once again to Dybala.
Giorgio Chiellini will have the responsibility of marshalling the defence on his shoulders. The Italians have looked susceptible in recent weeks and the veteran will need to draw upon his vast experience to stem the rot. Summer signing Manuel Locatelli made his first start at the weekend and could keep his place for what will be a Champions League debut. The Italians will need a commanding performance from the Euro 2020 star in midfield.
Alvaro Morata scored at the weekend and appears set to lead the line once again. With Dybala back and Federico Bernardeschi potentially replacing Dejan Kulusevski, Juventus have a frontline that can cause opposition trouble on their day.
Probable Lineup (4- 3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Chiellini, Sandro; Bentacur, Locatelli, Rabiot; Berbardeschi, Morata, Dybala
- Both Juventus and Malmo are winless in their past three games.
- The Old Lady have won five of their last six games in the competition.
- Malmo have faced off against Italian opposition six times in the Champions League/European Cup. Their last win came against AC Milan all the way back in 1968-69.
- Malmo have taken part in the Champions League proper just once before, in the 2014-15 season. They won one and lost the other five games.
- Juventus and Malmo have faced off twice in the competition before. The Italians prevailed 2-0 both times.
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With Ronaldo gone, the Argentine is now Juventus’s main man in attack. His ability to get in between the lines and link up with his teammates makes him an important piece in Allegri’s Juventus jigsaw.
Dybala’s absence was noticeable against Napoli as the Old Lady failed to get going in attack. While the Italians possess a number of top players in their midst, the Argentine by far is the one with the X-factor. The absence of Federico Chiesa makes Dybala the player to mark for Malmo. As long as the 27-year-old is kept quiet, Malmo will feel they have a chance to nick a point on the night, or even more.
Giorgio Chiellini recently claimed that Ronaldo’s presence held Dybala back at Juventus. With the Portuguese ace no more at the club, it is time to put those claims to the test. Juventus are currently low on morale and in need of inspiration. The stage is set for Dybala to step up as the main man and lead the club to victory. Whether he will rise to the occasion remains to be seen.
Malmo 1-2 Juventus
On paper, it should be an easy win for Juventus. However, the Italians are low on morale and appear to lack hunger in recent games. Malmo are a decent side and could give Allegri and co. something to think about.
The Champions League offers Juventus an opportunity to start afresh and they will be keen to take it. With the likes of Dybala and Bentacur back, the Italians are a stronger outfit than they were at the weekend. They should have enough in their locker to see off the plucky Swedes.