Our soccer scribe previews the second leg quarter-final Champions League tie between Barcelona and Juventus being played at the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening.Considering the status of 'that' PSG-Barcelona tie at the halfway point, a three-goal margin should appear rather elementary for a generally free-scoring Barcelona side. Their travails on the road in this season’s Champions League have been a stark indication of a growing fallibility that exists within that unit. Juventus just go from strength to strength, perfectly balancing defensive cohesion and progressive expansion. Max Allegri will sit in and hope for one incisive counterattack - an attack that would force the Spanish side to come up with 5 goals to progress.
Barcelona v Juventus | Wednesday 19 April | Nou Camp | 20:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Barcelona 9/20 | Draw 15/4 | Juventus 5/1
Barcelona’s 3-2 victory over Real Sociedad at the weekend exemplified the good and the bad at Barca. Lionel Messi has continued to lead the way as the world’s finest player, keeping Barca in touching distance in all competitions. But it’s elsewhere that things have regressed. Neymar has been inconsistent while the midfield has looked leggy and uninspired. Javier Mascherano is a major casualty this week, while Rafinha, Arda Turan and Alexi Vidal also miss out. There is a fair amount of athleticism and youthful exuberance unavailable to the Catalans this week.
They will welcome back Busquets following suspension, but will the taciturn Spaniard be able to track the likes of Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala? It all boils down to the pyrotechnics of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. In front of the almost religiously fanatical home support, Barca are seemingly capable of anything. But this is a Juventus side that has only conceded two goals in this competition all season. They are not going to crumble with the ease of that PSG side. Enrique will need Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta to track back consistently or they will be out of the game by half-time.
Max Allegri has revolutionised the playing style of the Italian giants with a 4-2-3-1 formation that flies in the face of the more traditionally accepted back-three of Antonio Conte. Any combination of Alves, Lichtsteiner or Sandro provides the side with pace in the full-back areas, while Sami Khedira provides the perfect midfield cover. Marko Pjaca will continue to miss out this week, but otherwise, it looks like a full bill of health for the Italian side. A comfortable 2-0 victory over Pescara was exactly what the doctor ordered as preparation for this encounter.
Dybala was nothing short of sensational last week and will provide pace aplenty alongside Cuadrado going forward. Gonzalo Higuain will lead the line while Allegri may mull utilising Mario Mandzukic in a supporting role this week. My theory is that he will opt against that approach and instead keep Stefano Sturaro in the starting line-up. This Juventus side doesn’t have the naivety of that PSG side from the Round of 16. They are built on protecting leads and Barcelona are going to find it extremely difficult to deny Allegri’s men.
Verdict: Matchbet + Both Team To Score - Barcelona + Yes 1/1
I expect a rousing atmosphere at the Nou Camp this week and as clear memories of that PSG comeback still hold some traction in the collective footballing conscious. But this Juventus side know how to hold on to a lead for dear-life. I expect them to threaten on the counter, and the absence of Mascherano will be felt in trying to overcome this deficit. Barcelona should be able to conquer the Italians over 90 minutes - but I fully expect Juventus to find the net in a game which could have any multitude of score-lines.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets