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Barcelona v Juventus Champions League Preview

September 12, 2017

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 Barcelona V Juventus

Champions League | Group D | Game 1 – Tuesday, 9th September – 19:45 GMT – Camp Nou


juventus

Juventus

So……here we are again, geared up and ready to start the hunt for that elusive Champions League trophy…..or are we? I can’t speak for others but i’m still feeling somewhat uninspired ahead of this seasons European campaign. It’s a combination of the departure of certain players, the lack of a big money signing in midfield (yes, I am used to being spoiled by Beppe and Fabio) and of course, that final 45 minutes in Cardiff that still haunts me every time someone mentions the words ‘Juventus’ and ‘Champions League’ in the same sentence. For me, some of the enthusiasm has gone and despite the prospect of facing a European giant like Barcelona on game day one, i feel strangely calm and serene, with a thoroughly different mindset to seasons past: What will be will be.

The marketing machine, the social media overload, my own arrogant preconceptions about facing a side like Real Madrid all contributed to a belief that it was genuinely going to be our time when we headed to Cardiff. We had everything needed in terms of the starting XI on the pitch, but more than that, we had a plan, a formation that worked and players that had absolute belief in one another and the coach. They were confident and assured, as they rightly should have been, and yet somehow it wasn’t to be. The rumours continue to this day about what may or may not have transpired at half-time at the Millennium Stadium, all of which you know too well, so i won’t bother going over them. Sufficed to say, I won’t be buying into the hype this season, nor getting too carried away with strong team or individual performances, nor any words from the players about lifting the trophy. I will believe we can win the Champions League if the full time whistle blows at Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on 26th May 2018 and Gigi Buffon is holding the trophy aloft – Not a second before then.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pessimist by nature –  I prefer to look at the positives in any situation, but 20 years of supporting this beautiful team has given me highs and lows, but it hasn’t given me a Champions League trophy. Of course, I know we will probably win it at some stage, and i’ll happily celebrate the moment, but until then, I’ll keep my expectations in check and cheer the team of my heart, regardless of the outcome.

Sentiment over and done with, there have been some truly encouraging signs so far this season. Granted, we have only faced the likes of Genoa, Cagliari and Chievo, all sides we should be beating comfortably, but the manner of victory, particularly against Genoa, gave some indicator of how tough this side can be. The fightback in Liguria really impressed and while it took the whole team to complete the comeback, it was Paulo Dybala’s resilience and grinta that left an impression.

The 4-2-3-1 system is working well for us and it was encouraging to see Allegri try something different by fielding a 4-3-3 in the 3-0 victory over Chievo last weekend. Miralem Pjanic seems to be flourishing for having a more industrious, hard-working type next to him in the shape of Blaise Matuidi, who has hit the ground running, playing box-to-box with a kind of energy and determination that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s still early days, so it’s important not to get too carried away, but the signs are good. The depth of the squad has come to fore early on – Consider that through injury or being rested, Juve were without Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Barzagli, Sami Khedira, Gigi Buffon and Alex Sandro while Benedikt Howedes and Mattia De Sciglio are yet to debut and Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi and Rodrigo Bentancur were only used for the closing part of the game. It’s a testament  to the management that while they weren’t able to get the kind of big-name signing many Juventini were hoping for, they were still able to massively upgrade the roster and give us cover in every part of the pitch.

Heading to the Camp Nou, Juve are without Chiellini, Khedira and Marchisio who have all been left out of the squad due to injuries, along with Mario Mandzukic who picked up a knock in the victory over Chievo while Juan Cuadrado is suspended for the match. Despite the absentees, it leaves the starting XI pretty open. There’s been some suggestion that in the Italian press that Rodrigo Bentancur could start, but that seems a strange choice from Allegri, given that he prefers to ease the youngsters into the team. That said, Stefano Sturaro played his part against Real Madrid a few years back so the lack of options in midfield could force Allegri’s hand.

The coach was surprisingly coy in his press conference, confirming only that Andrea Barzagli would start the match, but that could be at CB or RB. Given the options available, I think Gigi Buffn will start in goal, with Barzagli, Benatia, Rugani and Sandro at the back. Pjanic and Matuidi will likely start in midfield with Douglas Costa, Dybala and Sturaro ahead and Gonzalo Higuain leading the line.

Probable lineup:

4-2-3-1: Buffon; Barzagli, Rugani, Benatia, Alex Sandro; Matuidi, Pjanic; Douglas Costa, Dybala, Sturaro; Higuain.

Injured players:

Marchisio (knee), Pjaca (knee), Chiellini (thigh), Khedira (thigh), Mandzukic (thigh), Howedes

Suspended Players:

Juan Cuadrado.

 

 

Barcelona

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In their first match in this season’s Champions League, Barcelona take on Juventus in the Camp Nou. Its very fitting since Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League last season happened after the same match. A lot has changed since then.

Barcelona have lost their second best player and one of the best players in the world making them relatively weaker. That said, having Neymar or not last season made so little difference. Juventus were a unit in defence and they were almost impossible to penetrate. Similarly, Juventus lost Bonucci but there is no doubt their system will prevail.

This match is Barcelona’s first tough match of the season considering that the Supercopa is considered part of the preparation stages. To many, this match will give fans an idea of what’s to come and it will give the coach several ideas of what to change or improve.

Barcelona go into the match with no starters or important players being injured. Sergi Roberto was left out of the squad which faced Espanyol out of precaution but he’s good to go while Rafinha and Arda Turan continue to recover from their injuries. Luis Suárez recovered this past week and was given the green light to play in the Catalan derby, a match which Barcelona won 5-0 in thrilling fashion.

After the Catalan derby, Barcelona got a much-needed confidence boost to kick off the season. That said, there is a lot more to prove. A team like Juventus will be a true test and the fact that the first match is at the Camp Nou keeps the players relatively calmer.

As usual, Ter Stegen is expected to start with Jordi Alba, Pique, Umtiti in front of him. The fourth spot in defense is for the undecided right back. The position is still unclear because Valverde has given both Vidal and Semedo equal chances to convince. The obvious conclusion, based on their performances during these past few weeks, is that Semedo will be Barcelona’s main right back for the season.

In midfield, Barcelona will always depend on Busquets. Iniesta’s experience will be of major importance so him starting the match is a must. The third position in midfield is a bit vague even if Rakitic has been starting recently. Barcelona’s bench has players like Gomes, Paulinho, and Denis Suarez; Valverde could possibly put his money on Gomes or he could even surprise us all and go for the ‘awaited’ 4-2-3-1 formation which would really crush any lineup prediction. The safe conclusion says that Barcelona will go into the Juventus match the same way they went into the Espanyol match with Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic in midfield. It is the midfield with the most chemistry after all.

Obviously, Messi and Suarez are untouchable up front. The truly exciting question for Barcelona fans is the following: Will Valverde actually involve Dembele in such a match from the beginning? He just played a couple of minutes against Espanyol and seems pretty fit. After all, if Dembele was going to get a chance to impress against a big side, Juventus in the first match of the group stages is an intense yet safe opportunity. Deulofeu has been starting recently and he hasn’t been doing so bad himself. Valverde will soon enough replace Deulofeu with Dembele as the main starter. It is just a matter of when.

Barcelona and Juventus have an exciting recent history with Barca defeating Juve in the 2015 Champions League final. Last season, Juventus eliminated Barcelona from the quarter final keeping a clean sheet over two matches in the process. Both teams have the same yearly objectives: They are both going for all three trophies and a match of this magnitude will truly help them both know where they stand in this part of the season.

Probable lineup:

4-3-3: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Umtiti, Pique, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Dembele

Injured players:

Rafinha.

Suspended players:

 None

 

Formation

 

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  • ho Hi

    So ridiculous to see barzagli as rb,that old man. Better De Sciglio or Asa instead of Andrea,he is good for the last 15 minutes. Damn you Maxi

    • Juventino Persa

      couldn’t agree more! But Mad Max is stubborn, and sticks to it even if it fails always!

      • ho Hi

        Yes Mate,
        Is this typical for many italian coaches?
        Someone like Klopp or Pep wouldnt do that…..

        Max,trust young bloods…

  • Latest from Spain – Allegri will start DE SCIGLIO and BENTANCUR !
    starting XI like this – 4-3-2-1 / 4-3-3 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b9f2d1bbf0d0a4f3cdc0230c3e8eb15fddd5dfb1cd8be5e674a0a8ae76f2366f.jpg

    • #YouGotTheJuiceNowAllegri

      this is exactly how i would line up too but too bad mad max aint gonna do that

      • Cory

        Rugani instead of Benatia, the kid is the future, he could and should be the present and needs to get some important CL minutes. other than that I love if Bentancur actually starts; I really dont think the kid will feel flustered, he has played in some intense arenas and games in Argentina.

  • #YouGotTheJuiceNowAllegri

    i hope max plays Rodrigo Bentancur and not Sturaro

  • Praval

    Good attacking game, we are wasting possession though

  • Peter

    Apparently it took 40 minutes of our CL campaign to have our only right back injured. I fucking knew it would happen if we didn’t name Stephan.

  • Praval

    The HT scoreline doesnt do justice. We have played well. One lapse and Messi punishes. Hope to see some more attacking display from us in the 2nd

    • Praval

      That didnt mean not defending !

  • Juventino Persa

    Waiting for BS to justify this disgrace:

    But but Sturaro is gonna be the best RB in the world!!!
    But but Allegri won 3 copa Italia!

  • ….and thats why i refuse to buy into the CL hype again.
    Barca superb, but the mentality from this team sometimes really makes me wonder

    Barzagli/Benatia good early on then crumble – Alex Sandro still on vacation in Brazil – Zero service for Higuain who needs the ball – Sturaro poor at RB.

    An abject display, positives were seeing Bentancur debut, De Sciglio, who looked ok, bar his error(s) and more playing time for Bernardeschi.

    Disappointing night but it’s still early days and we have time to improve.

    Defence, defence, defence – it’s my biggest worry this season, nights like this don’t help.

    • E.Micallef

      Bonucci would not have changed much manzu marchisio khedira chiellini would have.

    • E.Micallef

      And they have a Messi in squad.

    • Xx RForcE xX

      90m € guy needs a ball?! You joking right?this fatt shit is unable to create anything on his own!he should spit blood on the pitch !90 m jesus christ

  • E.Micallef

    To early to play Barca. Technically they are miles ahead. We don’t have organisation at this point of the season. We’ll see one month from now.

  • Jas

    Laughable perfmonace by all means, Barca was miles ahead in class.

  • Papilaya(John)™★★★

    Another european night to forget…

    Major turning points that deided the game for me:

    -Between 15-20 mins mark, barca took full control of the game and never let go.

    -De Sciglio picking up an knock and sturaro coming and providing abasolutely nothing going forward and hardly anything containing barcas attack. Terrible clearence on his part. Defending 101, never allow a ball to casually roll down the middle of you own pk box towards the path of an oppenents attacker. The ball was set perfectly for rakitic.

    Random observations:

    Allegri had his work cut out for him. Our team was handicapped. The only cristism i habe for him is why no Rugani. And why bring sturaro in as Rb.

    Benatia hasnt look solid this whole season. He looks out of form and unconfident.

    Our backline were made fools. Messi made us look as bad as arsenal. Dont remember a proper period in the game where our defenders looked composed and defensively or on the ball. As the time ticked down, barca looked more and more threatening.

    No critism on bentacur. 20 year old, first professional european start and vs barca. What a way to throw the young midfielder with wolves.

    There was no flow. We lacked attacking options. Dybala and Pjanic failed to link up and i dont remember Costa ever threatening.sandro made great runs early on, but died off.

    Dybala failed to step in the lime light tonight. Made poor decisions and was dispoessed on a couple occasions.

    At the end of the day, im glad we got hit so hard early on rather than in the group stages. Lots of work to do from defense to attack. Defensive line needs to be figured out. With everyone is healthy, our best line looks Sandro-Chiellini-Rugani-Howedes.

    These are the matches that matter the most. Goal is to win trophies. We arent gonna meet chievos, or olympiakos at the pinnacle, we re gonna be facing the barcas, madrids and bayerns. When our attack defense gets sorted out, perhaps we can expect a better outcome. It is still early in the season and i still believe in this club and can see major improvements

  • Cory

    The knee jerk reactions are expected I guess but I really do not understand them. I agree with those that dont understand Benatia over Rugani, Benatia just looks stupid out there more often than not. But other than that, with a weakend side, new players still settling in, and Messi being himself there were moments in the first half where we looked good. It was a back and forth game before De Sciglio went down and Messi did his usual. The second half was rough, no denying that, but after the first CL game of the season, away at Barca we lose and so many people willing to throw in the towel and damn our players. People take a deep breathe, if we are in doubt of making it out of the group then it is time to hit the panic button, but until that time comes can we please give our team some time to get healthy and come together? Once Allegri realizes that Benatia isnt the solution and we work Howedes into the lineup or De Sciglio settles in we will be fine! and Lichsteiner can still be added to the knockout round roster! II will be anxious to read peoples responses if we beat Barca at home and possibly top the group.

  • Praval

    Very Disappointing:
    HIguain, Benatia (unbelievably low concentration)

    Disappointing:
    Dybala, Sandro, Sturaro, Allegri

    Encouraging:
    Bentancur, De Sciglio, Pjanic, Matuidi

    Hope the result is overturned at the J stadium

    • ho Hi

      Totally agree.
      Cant understand why Höwedes wasnt part. Benatia is such a wanker.
      Pipita isnt a big player for big games,but on Sunday he will scores twice,wow.

      Dybala and Sandro were totally weak.
      Matu and Benta were really nice to see. Hope they give us more.

      Its good that these millionaires boys play game after game now.

      And its still interesting to see that Barca is so oblique. Without him they are nothing. I really pray that this never happen with Juve and Dybala.

  • Bianco Neri

    Damn… Same shit,different day…

    What is this? Why we can’t play top teams?
    Barca, Bayern, Real Madrid…
    Same thing happened in Cardiff..

    Tell me guys,

    Is it Allegri? Is that because of his tactics?

    Or is it because serie a sucks? Remember spain winning italy weeks ago..

    Playing two finals not winning, which is amazing result for allegri and marotta,huh?
    Even with this team without Mandzu,Giorgio, Marchisio.. we can not lose like that.
    Barca was not that good.. The first half was ok..till 44th minute..

    …………………………………………………………………………………..
    …………………………………………………………………………………..
    … disappointed.

  • Juventino Persa

    my random thought about the game:

    1- Starting XI: Seemed ok to me, except there were too many changes, this 11 player never had played together before. Just 4 of them have more than 15 months at the club, with 2 of those 4 being Dybala and Sandro at the beginning of their 3rd season! That was why the team lacked any cohesion, no clear tactic, neither in defence nor in attack! All top teams enjoy one thing which is missing in Juve: STABILITY!

    2- Barca: Were not that great, but they have Messi, which scored 2 typical Messiesque goals and created another one. This what happens when you just sit back and play with a small team mentality! The same happened in Cardiff in the second half, in Berlin in the first half, in Bayern game in Turin, etc. When you sit deep cowardly hoping that players of Messi or Ronaldo calibers won’t score, then they score the first, you have to open up and push forward, they get more space and score even more! This has been repeated so many times! Another feature of top teams which Juve lack: COURAGE!

    3- Players: I don’t get the hate for Higuain! He is a god damn number 9, he needs services, which got none of! I don’t remember him touching the ball in the box or even just close to it more than once! Costa had a bad game but needs more time, Bentacur was ok, the kid didn’t play bad on his tough debut of European football! Dybala and Sandro were really bad, and I don’t get it! Dybala wasted so many balls, shooting aimlessly or keeping it too long while he had much better options to pass, Actually he has much of the blame that Higuain didn’t get any service! Benatia was very poor with so many mistakes, and don’t even get me start on Sturaro! Pjanic was our sole good performer last night. Bernardeschi showed some sparks of brilliance, but it was too late!

    4- Allegri: Oh, boy! What do I say? We have a decent RB in Licht. (our best RB) and he puts him out of the list… to put Sturaro on RB??? The guy is just not good enough for Juve, zero contribution in attack and not convincing in defence! I had told you guys he is gonna make a disastrous RB, and he did! But the blame is on the coach! The more disturbing thing is not our shaky defence, it is something deeper: Allegri’s team tends to turn off and hibernates for a long period of game! You can afford that against Genoa and Chievo, not against Barca, Madrid, Bayern type of teams. We have a Ferrari and MadMax uses it as a Fiat!

    Great to know your thought!

  • BelgianJuventino

    Continue to find it an odd decision not to include Stephan in the CL squad. Not going to blame MDS/Sturaro, but Lichtsteiner should have been on that pitch – either a starter or a sub. Sturaro just isn’t a RB, I don’t see why Allegri insists on using the lad as a RB or a LW. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t working Max – we’re not out of depth in any department and still we see these weird picks.

    As to why we collapsed AGAIN, I can only guess, as we all can only guess and calculate in our own views what the problem is. Injuries, formation, selection, mentality, fitness, class difference… Any of it or all of them, I don’t know.

    Just so very sad to see Cardiff 2.0 instead of killing off the memory of it. Barca didn’t specifically impress me either, Juve was just bad and not up to standard.

    I see it as no more margin for error, we need to take all 6 points against both Olympiakos and Sporting and hopefully win the home game against Barca too. You can quietly assume Barca will win it all against Olympiakos and Sporting, so we need to match that to at least get 2nd spot.

    Continue to believe though, a bad game doesn’t mean a bad campaign. Onwards as ever!

    • Papilaya(John)™★★★

      Lichsteiner shouldve been included. I think max sees him as an important part to our serie a campaign, but de sciglio would do just fine.

      We were poor and messi was his usual phenomal self.

      The odds were stacked highly against us. Sturaro, being without our 2 best Cb s and an inexperienced 20 year old and at camp nou.

      • BelgianJuventino

        I’m happy with De Sciglio, but I dont understand excluding the only other natural RB from CL. Max will have his reasons I assume.

  • EricJuve

    I said it before and I will continue to say it Allegri needs to go if we want to win the Champions League . There are serious tactical and playing style issues with this team. We missed the opportunity to get Spalletti who is one of the best coaches in Serie A at the moment. If Turkey fails to qualify for the World Cup we should try to get Mircea Lucescu. I always wanted to see him manage a team in Serie A, an underrated coach.