Preview: Juventus vs. Barcelona - prediction, team news, lineups

sportsmole.co.uk, 26 October 2020, 19:44
Preview: Juventus vs. Barcelona - prediction, team news, lineups

Arguably the standout fixture of the 2020-21 Champions League group stage takes place in Turin on Wednesday night as Juventus host Barcelona in a repeat of the 2015 final.

Coronavirus may deny fans a much-anticipated reunion between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but it will still be a star-studded occasion between two clubs with legendary figures as their new managers, both looking to make their mark.

Match preview

© Reuters

Wednesday's mouth-watering showdown will be Juventus' 200th Champions League outing and victory would see them become the first Italian team to chalk up 100 wins in the competition - both landmarks which they would relish reaching against a team of Barcelona's quality.

Andrea Pirlo will not need reminding about his last showdown with the Blaugrana, which also happened to be his final appearance in a Juventus shirt as Barcelona beat the Italian giants in the 2015 Champions League final.

Now the World Cup winner is in the Juventus dugout and preparing for his first Champions League home game as a manager, and he does so with questions already being asked of him.

Pirlo was something of a surprise appointment considering he had only taken over as Juve's Under-23s coach days earlier, and the team's results and performances have not been entirely convincing so far.

The perennial Serie A champions, who are gunning for a 10th straight title domestically, currently only sit fifth after five games of the campaign, having dropped points in three of those already.

© Reuters

Only a 77th-minute strike from Dejan Kulusevski prevented Pirlo from suffering his first defeat as Juventus manager at the weekend, and they have now drawn three of their last four Serie A outings, including sharing the spoils with Crotone and Hellas Verona.

The Bianconeri were not entirely convincing on matchday one either, although Alvaro Morata 's second-half brace got their Group G campaign off to a winning start away to Dynamo Kiev.

Of course, the absence of coronavirus-infected Ronaldo has not helped their cause and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will undergo a test 24 hours before kickoff to determine his availability for this match.

Juve will justifiably expect to seal their place in the knockout rounds once again, but it is their double-header against Barca which is likely to determine first and second spot, and subsequently an easier route through the knockout rounds.

The Italian giants have won their last four Champions League home games and have only lost four of their 42 European outings at the Allianz Stadium, although three of those have come in their last 10 such matches.

© Reuters

The hosts may feel that this is the best possible time to face a Barcelona side still reeling from such a tumultuous 2019-20 campaign on and off the field.

New boss Ronald Koeman initially looked to have steadied the ship by beating Villarreal and Celta Vigo by an aggregate scoreline of 7-0 in his first two games at the helm, but crisis has quickly engulfed the club once again since.

Amid a backdrop of wage rows and dressing room divisions, Barca have picked up only one point from their subsequent three La Liga outings, including back-to-back defeats at the hands of Getafe and, on Saturday, Clasico rivals Real Madrid at Camp Nou.

A home defeat to your biggest rivals is always a significant blow, and one that leaves Barcelona once again in a state of flux within weeks of the start of a new era.

The Catalan giants sit 12th in La Liga after five games, already seven points off the pace-setters and with only seven points to their name.

© Reuters

A convincing matchday one victory over Ferencvaros, when five different players were on the scoresheet, is their only victory in their last four outings across all competitions, but they will face a much sterner test in Juventus.

Barca have never won away from home against Juventus, although their overall record against Italian teams is far more impressive - no defeats in their last six and just two defeats from their last 18.

The Spanish giants have a formidable record in the group stages too, going undefeated in their last three campaigns and losing only one of their last 17 such matches on the road.

However, in European matches as a whole Barca have only won six of their last 17 away games, and they have not won one by more than the odd goal for over two years now.

Considering their form heading into this one, hopes will not be too high of that changing here, although this is a contest between two European giants who are used to winning a lot more frequently than they have managed so far this term.

Juventus Champions League form: W

Juventus form (all competitions): WDWDWD

Barcelona Champions League form: W

Barcelona form (all competitions): WWDLWL

Team News

© Reuters

All eyes will be on Ronaldo and whether he can return a negative coronavirus test, which would clear him to play against Barcelona and Messi for the first time since leaving Real Madrid.

Ronaldo has scored 15 goals in his last 20 appearances versus Barcelona in all competitions, not to mention being the all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League, ahead of perennial rival Messi.

Juventus have plenty of other injury concerns elsewhere, though, with Giorgio Chiellini limping off on matchday one to join Matthijs de Ligt on the sidelines.

Both players are expected to miss this match too, while Alex Sandro 's continued absence further limits their defensive options.

Paulo Dybala was handed a rare start at the weekend and will hope to keep hold of his place in the team regardless of whether Ronaldo is ready to return.

Barcelona, meanwhile, will be without the suspended Gerard Pique after he was sent off in the 5-1 victory over Ferencvaros on matchday one.

Samuel Umtiti is also still short of match fitness, meaning that Ronald Araujo is likely to partner Clement Lenglet at the heart of the defence.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen 's continued absence further weakens Barcelona's rearguard, with Neto expected to get the gloves again, while at the other end Philippe Coutinho is also out with a hamstring problem.

The in-form Ansu Fati will start again alongside Messi, who is the only player to have scored more goals than Ronaldo in the Champions League group stages.

There will be familiar faces on both sides too, with Miralem Pjanic and Arthur having swapped between these two clubs during the summer and Neto having also played for Juve in the past.

Juventus possible starting lineup:

Szczesny; Demiral, Bonucci, Danilo; Chiesa, Bentancur, Rabiot, Cuadrado; Ramsey; Dybala, Morata

Barcelona possible starting lineup:

Neto; Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; Pjanic, De Jong: Dembele, Messi, Fati: Griezmann

Head To Head

This will be the 14th competitive meeting between these two sides, 11 of which have come in UEFA competition with Barcelona just about edging the head-to-head record.

Juventus have failed to even score in the last three meetings, but they are unbeaten in their six previous home game against Barca - their joint-best undefeated total against a side in European competition.

The two sides were most recently paired together in the 2017-18 group stages, when Barcelona won 3-0 at Camp Nou and drew 0-0 in Turin.

We say: Juventus 2-1 Barcelona

Barcelona still have quite a few of the players that won the 2015 final against Juventus, but as a team they look a million miles away from being able to scale the heights of European football again at the moment.

Juventus have not been in great form themselves as they continue to find their feet under Pirlo, but they seem in less trouble than Barcelona and so we are backing them to come out on top on Wednesday - particularly if Ronaldo is passed fit too.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.

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