Two of Europe’s most successful clubs were locked in a goalless draw in Italy last night in the form of Juventus and Barcelona as the race for top spot in Group F goes down to the wire.
Both sides saw very few chances in a cagy affair, but the home team did have the better of the play as a point kept them second and three points behind leaders Barca.
From the start in Turin, Massimiliano Allegri decided on six changes from Sunday’s shock Serie A away defeat to Sampdoria that left them third in The Division.
In defence, keeper Gigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Mehdi Benatia and right-back Alex Sandro replaced Wojciech Szczesny, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Skipper Giorgio Chiellini and paceman Kwadwo Asamoah, whilst Federico Bernarderschi and Mario Mandzukic were ousted in favour of Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa further up the field.
Meanwhile, visiting Boss Ernesto Valverde made three alterations from his starting Xl that bested Leganes by three goals away from home at the weekend to remain at the summit of The La Liga Table.
Lucas Digne, former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu, and Paulinho, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur, were among those to come in, taking the places of Jordi Alba, Paco Alcacer and one of the most recognisable figures in word Football Lionel Messi.
On a chilly night on The Continent, in which Juve made it nine in a row at home unbeaten against Spanish sides, it would be the hosts who got off to the brighter start.
A superb Costa run and shot forced a strong save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen after the winger had linked up with Juan Cuadrado, who almost accidentally set up Andres Iniesta at the other end with a poor defensive header shortly after, but the Spaniard could only fire over from a tough angle.
In an end to end encounter, Dybala was soon testing ter Stegen after a gift from Samuel Umtiti, with the sought-after forward unable to worry the German too much.
It would then take a piece of audacity from Ivan Rakitic to produce the game’s next real action as his long-range free-kick was able to just about beat everyone other than the post as Paulinho couldn’t convert the rebound.
Just when it looked like the first-half was petering out for things to stay level at the break, Dybala produced a bit of magic to pick out Sandro with a long ball and then sprint to receive his cut-back, coming so close to breaking the deadlock with a shot that raced just over the bar.
However, the second period would leave a lot more to the imagination in terms of action, the only real early exchange of note being a free-kick from substitute Messi that just had Buffon worried for a second before it sailed over the bar.
Again, there would be thrills late in the second period with Costa firing just wide from the edge of the area and a superb Dybala volley was somehow kept out by Stegen before Benatia headed over from the corner.
But, a game of few chances would eventually finish even, many left disappointed after this fixture produced a Quarter-Final to remember in last year’s Competition.
Next up for The Old Lady will be Sunday’s visit of Crotone to The Allianz Stadium, with a return to UCL action scheduled for the first week of December and more specifically a must-win clash with Olympiacos.
Whilst the already qualified Barca will host Sporting Lisbon at Camp Nou when they don the European Stage next, a couple of weeks after their forthcoming top of the Table League clash with Valencia this weekend.