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Champions League

Champions League Preview: Juventus vs Barcelona

Juventus go into this quarter-final match against Barcelona with the hopes of rewriting history and erasing their memories of the 2015 Champions League Final. Times have changed since that night in Berlin. Juventus will only field two players from the starting XI of the 2015 Final against Barcelona in tomorrow’s game. The same thing cannot be said for Barcelona because they will field nine players that started the 2015 Final against Juventus. The lack of change and renewal of the Barcelona squad last summer may explain their decline in overall form this season when compared to 2015. In comparison, Juventus were essentially forced to make transfers to replace what were arguably their two best players: Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. These departures led to the arrival of striker Gonzalo Higuain, who has so far scored twenty-one league goals and averaging 2.4 goals a game.

Barcelona come into this fixture showing weakness after their 2-0 loss to Malaga on the weekend. Malaga started the game with a 4-2-3-1 formation and scored two counter-attack goals. This is significant because Juventus uses the same formation and plays in a similar defensive and compact style. In contrast, Juventus won 2-0 against a Chievo side that created chances and pressure for periods of the game. Manager Massimiliano Allegri explained his philosophy in his post-match comments: “Football is very simple, you have attacking and defending. You need both and there’s no shame in being good at defending, in fact it’s just as beautiful as a great attacking move… I am happy for those who have spectacular football, but if I want a spectacle then I’ll go to the circus. I want three points.” He added that: “There are some games where you have 35 per cent possession and create seven or eight scoring opportunities. Some games you have 70 per cent possession and have three shots on target. So which is better?” These are encouraging words for Juventus fans who want to believe that their club can knock out one of the giants of European football.

Allegri described in his pre-match press conference that defense is indeed Barcelona’s weakness and seeks to exploit it. He added that the front four of Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzukic will start tomorrow, which he will probably use his favored 4-2-3-1 formation.

Possible Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Buffon; Dani Alves, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain

Possible Barcelona XI (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Iniesta, Mascherano, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Prediction: Allegri admitted that Juventus cannot play for 0-0, which means both teams will likely score.

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