Juventus will be keen to use the home support to their advantage in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg match against Villarreal on Wednesday.
It has been a rather curious season for Juventus, one of the biggest clubs in Italian football. The Bianconeri have flattered to deceive with their performances this season, but find themselves fourth in the Serie A and a win away from qualifying for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
While a favourable draw on paper, Villarreal are anything but pushovers. The Europa League champions were the better team in the first leg, and Juventus can consider themselves lucky to have come away with a draw. With the away-goal rule no longer in use this season, Massimilano Allegri’s side will have to win on the night to progress to the last eight.
Having fallen at the round of 16 stage in the last two seasons, the Old Lady will be keen to go deeper in the competition this time around. While their chances of going all the way are low, a good run will help enhance their reputation, which has taken a beating the last two seasons.
Allegri’s side will go into the game with some momentum. Juventus are unbeaten in their last 12 games across all competitions and have made a habit of securing wins while not at their best. On the other hand, Unai Emery has proven himself to be a shrewd operator in continental fixtures and will look to outwit his more illustrious Italian counterpart on the night.
With Inter Milan already knocked out, the Bianconeri will be keen to keep the Italian flag flying high in Europe’s top competition. It promises to be an interesting game between two sides struggling with injuries to key players.
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Federico Chiesa, Kaio Jorge, Weston McKennie, Leonardo Bonucci and Denis Zakaria are all unavailable for the tie and are currently sidelined with injuries. Massimiliano Allegri welcomed Mattia De Sciglio and Alex Sandro back from injuries at the weekend against Sampdoria. The former could feature on the night, but the latter is unlikely to be risked after picking up a calf injury.
Things could get better for the Italians as Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala, and Federico Bernardeschi are all back in contention for selection. While it is debatable if they will make the starting XI even if deemed fit, having them on the bench will be a confidence booster. The depth could especially prove decisive should the game go into extra time.
Juventus will be expected to start in a 4-4-2 formation on the night. Wojciech Szczesny is the sure starter in goal, playing behind a back four of Luca Pellegrini, Matthijs de Ligt, Daniele Rugani and Danilo.
Manuel Locatelli and Arthur will be expected to hold the fort in central midfield, handing Adrien Rabiot and Juan Cuadrado the reins on the wings. Dusan Vlahovic started on the bench at the weekend and should be fresh to feature from kickoff on the night. He is likely to be paired up with Spanish star Alvaro Morata upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, Rugani, De Ligt, Pellegrini; Cuadrado, Locatelli, Arthur, Rabiot; Vlahovic, Morata
Unai Emery has decisions to make of his own given the Yellow Submarines’ injury concerns. Alberto Moreno became the latest player to be sidelined after the Spaniard ruptured his cruciate ligament, ending his season prematurely. The 29-year-old joins Ruben Pena and Paco Alcacer on the treatment table.
Villarreal recently welcomed back Francis Coquelin, and could also be on the verge of having Gerard Moreno return to action after a month and a half out injured. Juan Foyth and Etienne Capoue are doubtful for the game, while Raul Albiol was taken off as a precaution against Celta Vigo at the weekend.
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It remains to be seen if Albiol will feature on the night, and if not, he will be a big miss for the Europa League holders. Emery is likely to field his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation on the night and will try to hit Juventus on the counter.
Geronimo Rulli will start in goal behind a flat back four of Alfonso Pedraza, Pau Torres, Aissa Mandi and Serge Aurier. The double-pivot of Coquelin and Dani Parejo will be expected to challenge Locatelli and Arthur for control of the midfield. Doing so will allow Samuel Chukwueze and Yeremi Pino to wreak havoc on the flanks.
Tottenham Hotspur loanee Giovani Lo Celso is expected to feature as the side’s playmaker on the night, playing just behind Arnaut Danjuma, who is likely to start up front. Villarreal have enough dynamism in their attack to hurt Juventus, and it remains to be seen if Emery can produce another tactical masterclass – this time in Turin.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Rulli; Aurier, Mandi, Torres, Pedraza; Coquelin, Parejo; Chukwueze, Lo Celso, Pino; Danjuma
- Juventus have been knocked out at the Round of 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League in the previous two seasons. Villarreal have not been at this stage in the competition since 2008.
- Juventus have faced Spanish opposition at home 23 times, losing just thrice in the process.
- Villarreal have won their last two ties at this stage of the competition. However, the last time this happened was in 2009.
- Villarreal have failed to keep an away clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League since 2008.
- Juventus have won their last six Champions League home games on the trot. This is the second-best such run by an Italian club since the Bianconeri themselves won ten home games in a row from 1996/1997.
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The Serbian started on the bench against Sampdoria at the weekend, as Massimiliano Allegri had an eye on the game against Villarreal to unleash him. Dusan Vlahovic enjoyed a bright start to life in Europe’s premier competition as he scored within 32 seconds of kickoff in the first leg.
Juventus will be looking for him to show more of that clinical side on Wednesday to lead them into the quarter-finals. The Bianconeri have struggled to find the back of the net this season, and Vlahovic’s arrival has been a boon. The Serbian has already scored four goals for them and is the club’s third-highest joint scorer this season.
Juventus 0-0 Villarreal (Juventus to win on penalties)
It promises to be a close game between two sides, who are likely to take a safety-first approach. With no away goals rule in force and the first leg ending in a draw, the game at the Allianz Stadium is a one-off where the winner takes all.
While the Bianconeri do have home advantage, Villarreal have shown themselves to be capable of stepping up when needed in recent times. They won away at Young Boys and Atalanta, while giving Manchester United a real run for their money earlier this term. Unai Emery’s men will certainly give Juventus a real fight, and it will not come as a surprise if the tie goes to penalties to decide the winner.