We preview Tuesday night's quarter-final UCL tie between Juventus and Barcelona being played at the Juventus Stadium.This is a fascinating clash of styles that has all the makings of a Champions League classic. Juventus are the ruthlessly efficient home side with a pragmatic approach that has seen them dominate Italian football this season. Barcelona are the swashbuckling antithesis of their hosts - flirting dangerously with both mediocrity and brilliance. It seems - in the wake of that 2-0 loss to Malaga - that Luis Enrique’s true focus this season is on the European trophy. Having already declared his departure at the end of the season, it feels as if that victory in France was really the catalyst for a wholehearted drive towards European glory. Juventus will probably feel that this is as good a time as any to take on this iconic Barcelona outfit.
Juventus v Barcelona | Tuesday 11 April | Juventus Stadium | 20:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Juventus 15/10 | Draw 9/4 | Barcelona 18/10
The Bianconeri will be without Marko Pjaca after the winger injured himself on international duty. That does leave Allegri with some intriguing decisions should he pursue his 4-2-3-1 formation in terms of the winger options. Cuadrado will almost certainly, while he may feel tempted to play Dani Alves in a more advanced position. He will likely resist that temptation and opt for Stefano Sturaro on the other side. Gonzalo Higuain has had a fantastic season and will lead the line this week. A big plus for Juventus is the return to full fitness of Paulo Dybala. His relationship with Higuain has been a crucial component of their recent dominant form.
Juventus have lost only once in their last 17 competitive matches - and that loss was against Napoli in a Coppa Italia tie in which they eventually advanced. Their home form is astonishing, with 21 wins and 2 draws in 23 matches over all competitions. They are currently on a 15 game winning streak at home and have not been beaten at home in Europe for 21 games. Phew. It very much fits into the stereotypically Italian side being imperious at home. They may not be quite used to facing a side of this attacking calibre, but they will draw comfort form Barcelona’s last dismal showing at PSG.
The Blaugrana have had a season of peaks and troughs. Their barely comprehendible comeback win over PSG broke records along with Parisian hearts. But their 2-0 defeat to Malaga at the weekend highlighted the darker side of this current Barca incarnation. Oscillating between the sublime and the ridiculous is not going to cut it getting past this rigidly organised Italian outfit. Notwithstanding Juventus’ awesome home form, Barca have been dodgy on the road in Europe, with that humiliating defeat to PSG compounded by defeat to City.
To add further complications for Barca, Rafinha is now set to miss the rest of the season. Sergio Busquets - nominally a lynchpin figure who could have give some control to the middle of the park in a game of this magnitude - is suspended. This will likely see Javier Mascherano reverting to his old-school midfield role in an attempt to solidify the midfield area. It obviously boils down to how much influence Messi, Suarez and Neymar are able to exert on the game. In Paris, they were virtually anonymous as they were overrun in midfield. This week they should fare better with Rakitic back to full fitness and Mascherano likely to be drafted in as emergency cover for Busquets.
Verdict: Matchbet + Both Teams to Score - Juventus & Yes - at 28/10
I think that Juventus’ imperious home form - coupled with Barca’s blunders on the road - should make them the favourites to edge this one. However, I don’t foresee Barca drawing another blank on the road. They are highly motivated to win this competition and I think we will see a more composed away performance from Barca.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets