Juventus and Sevilla square off in Champions League action this Wednesday! Find out who our scribe is backing below.
Juventus host Sevilla in a rematch of last year’s group phase encounter. The Old Lady are still coming to terms with the loss of influential playmaker Paul Pogba. The arrival of Gonzalo Higuain has given the Old Lady some real added firepower this season. Massimiliano Allegri will be hoping to take the Italians one step further than the 2014-2015 campaign. Sevilla - the resident kings of Europa League football - have yet to evolve that success onto the grand stage. This is actually only their fourth appearance in the group stage - they lost all three of their away fixtures in the Champions League last season. So this is a battle of two sides at different developmental stages, both eager to make a greater impression on the competition.
Juventus v Sevilla | Wednesday 15 September | Juventus Stadium | 20:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Juventus 11/20 | Draw 29/10 | Sevilla 52/10
Much like the national team’s record against Spain, Juventus have an incredible European pedigree against Spanish opposition. In 23 encounters, the Italian superpower has won 14 ties and lost only twice. They are also unbeaten in their last 17 home games in Europe.
Allegri will be agonizing over whether to play Mandzukic and Higuain together. I feel that Allegri will err on the side of maintaining an Italian stereotype and opt for Higuain, with Dybala and Pjanic in the wider areas. There is certainly a good variety of attacking flair in that trio, enough to keep any defence guessing.
Alves and Lichsteiner - though perhaps more advanced in years than your standard full-back pairing - still offer terrific drive and will propel Juventus forward at every opportunity. Juventus will likely play on the counter whilst Sevilla try to play narrow and congest the midfield. This is where Pogba’s athleticism will be missed. Marchisio and Hernanes will likely be the men to play in the holding role- and it's there where one feels that Sevilla could get some real joy. They may opt for younger legs in Lemina or really get obdurate and stick Sami Khedira in there. Whatever squad they choose, expect this to be a highly tactical affair where the Italians relinquish a stranglehold on possession.
Jorge Sampaoli joins Sevilla after a hugely successful period at the helm of the Chilean national side. He inherits a side that has won the Europa League in five of the last 11 seasons, but is desperate to make a greater impact in this elite tournament. You wonder how on earth he is expected to do that after the transfer window they experienced. Losing Kevin Gameiro to Atletico was really a hammer blow in a tumultuous transfer window. The loss of stalwart defender Koke and Spanish midfielder Juan Soriano has further altered the identity of this side. Kychowiak and Llorente have also moved on to different challenges.
Looking at their reinforcements, one has to say that the jury is out on Sevilla this season. Franco Vasquez is a talented player and will look to fill the void left by Gameiro. The signings of Hiroshi Kiyotake and Wissam Yedder seem to have a slight tinge of desperation about them.
One thing that Sevilla do have is a well-ingrained style of play. Their Europa League final victory over Liverpool last season exemplified their ability to keep the ball under pressure and exploit any errors. There has just been such a change in personnel that I can’t see the Spanish outfit destabilizing an impressive Juventus side.
Verdict: Juventus Win 11/20
Sevilla have lost a large portion of their firepower and despite a reasonably successful start to their La Liga campaign I can’t see them overhauling Juventus. I expect Gonzalo Higuian to continue his rich vein of scoring.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets