Barça have coasted through the Champions League group stage with five wins in five games. Can they make it 6/6 this week? Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Juventus.
Date and kick-off time: Tuesday, December the 8th, 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: UEFA Champions League, Round 6
Referee: Tobias Stieler
Final matchday of the Champions League group stage is here. And for a second week running, Barcelona have more points in their Champions League group than their La Liga campaign with half the number of games played. In a relatively manageable group, the Catalans have comfortably qualified for the next round along with their next opponents, Juventus. Both the teams head into the final fixture hoping to secure the top spot.
Both Barcelona and Juventus have not been the most impressive teams in the world, but the results of both the teams have been polar opposites. While Barça have already lost four games this season, Juve’s only loss this season came vs the Catalans in the reverse fixture. Despite this, the Old Lady sits 4th in their league with up to five draws dampening their progress.
The Blaugranas dominated the reverse fixture, winning the game 2-0 at the Allianz Stadium. Injuries plagued Juventus then, Barcelona are the victims now. Star names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Matthijs de Ligt are back for the Bianconeri now posing a more prominent challenge to Barça. The Azulgranas, on the other hand, miss a lot of their players, with Ousmane Dembele added to the list now.
Juventus need to win by more than two goals to leapfrog the Catalans onto the top of the table. Barcelona have to avoid this heavy defeat to stay on top. A fascinating encounter awaits!
What to expect from Barcelona?
Three wins in a row and a disappointing defeat. While the sensations were excellent going into the weekend game, Barcelona return to their uncertain, non-confident self. Comical defensive errors continue as the club struggles to find its feet in the league. Champions League though, is another story, as Barça have a 100% record till now.
Ronald Koeman has not been consistent with his eleven this season. Too much reliance on central players to play on the wings, deploying players out of position, added with defensive errors have left Barça in the place they are now. Even after realising that his starting eleven has not worked, the changes made have not been effective. The weekend game would be a perfect example to illustrate this.
“Our goal is to win every game. We want to top our group. We have a three-point advantage and we have a lot of chances to do it.”Ronald Koeman
Now, with Ousmane Dembele also ruled out with injury, there are no proper wingers who could disturb or faze the opposition defence. While the game against Juventus would be of different context, it will be interesting to see how the Dutchman sets up the team. The last time around, Barça had better control of the game and probably played the best half of their season in the second half.
Dest will be crucial as Barcelona lack a direct winger. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty)
But, with the defensive frailties and the return of Ronaldo for Juventus, Barça should not concede chances like they did last time to Morata. Koeman might opt for Ronald Araújo for aerial prowess over Óscar Mingueza and should at all costs stay away from playing Frenkie de Jong at CB. At least Juve will not deploy a low block, and that would be a relief for the players after the suffering over the weekend.
What to expect from Juventus?
Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus have not been the most convincing side there is, but the results have not been hard on them. Since the Barça defeat, they have improved with players like Ronaldo and de Ligt coming back into the side. Adrien Rabiot has synced well with the Pirlo idealogy and has been their best midfielder since the Italian’s arrival. With Arthur Melo slowly getting into the side and American Weston McKennie impressing gradually, he seems to have figured out his team.
Juve set up in a 4-4-2 on paper but varies drastically according to the situation of the game. While attacking, the left fullback, if Danilo, tucks inside to form a back three to help in the build-up with the left-winger and right-back acting as wingbacks. Rabiot plays as the carrier with Rodrigo Bentancur or Arthur Melo sitting deep. The right-winger tucks inside to allow the right back to overlap and form a 3-1-5-1 shape in attack.
Pirlo will look for a better outing against Barcelona this time than last. (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/Getty)
The system is far from perfect, as seen from the previous game. The inconsistent pressing, the lack of patterns of play, and other issues have restricted the Bianconeri. They come into this game after a comeback victory in the Turin derby, which would be a confidence booster. With the Portuguese back in the eleven this time around, Pirlo would hope to have a better conversion of the chances they create early.
“Messi and Cristiano are different and both are the best of this era, hopefully we can enjoy both tomorrow night.”Ronald Koeman
Player to watch
35, and showing no signs of slowing down. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty)
Who else? The five-time Balon d’Or winner is among the best players of this generation and is back to rekindle the rivalry with Lionel Messi. The two players are playing one another after more than two years and will be hoping to bring their A-game. The reverse fixture saw a lack of conviction from the Juventus forwards, and who else to get back the mojo than one of the best in the business. His aerial presence, clinical nature and ability to be the focal point of the team will be crucial for Pirlo and Juventus.
Previous games: LWWWL
Cadiz 2–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Ferencvaros 0–3 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Barcelona 4–0 Osasuna | La Liga
Dynamo Kyiv 0–4 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Atletico Madrid 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Position in UCL
15 points in 5 games
5 wins, 0 draws and 0 losses
16 Goals Scored, 2 Goals Conceded
+14 Goal Difference
Previous games: WWDWW
Juventus 2–1 Torino| Serie A
Juventus 3–0 Dynamo Kyiv | UEFA Champions League
Benevento 1–1 Juventus | Serie A
Juventus 2–1 Ferencvaros| UEFA Champions League
Juventus 2–0 Cagliari | Serie A
Position in UCL
12 points in 5 games
4 wins, 0 draws and 1 loss
11 Goals Scored, 4 Goal Conceded
+7 Goal Difference
- Barcelona have won their last 5 matches (Champions League).
- Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 matches against Juventus in all competitions.
- Juventus have scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches (Champions League).
- Barcelona are undefeated in their last 5 matches against Juventus in all competitions.
Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Gerard Piqué (Knee), Sergi Roberto (Hamstring & COVID-19), Ansu Fati (tendon)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Dest · Araújo · Lenglet · Alba
Pjanic · de Jong
Trincao · Messi · Pedri
Coach: Ronald Koeman
“Tomorrow we will line up a strong team because we want to win the group.”Ronald Koeman
Injured: Giorgio Chiellini, Merih Demiral, Gianluigi Buffon
Cuadrado · de Ligt · Bonucci · Danilo
Kulusevski · Rabiot · Bentancur · Chiesa
Dybala · Ronaldo
Coach: Andrea Pirlo
Both the teams have qualified, but the top spot would have been the aim of the clubs right after the Group stage draw. Juventus will look to attack, and Koeman, as he has mentioned, won’t go easy as the top spot is not confirmed yet. Barça have not lost at a UCL game in the Camp Nou in a long time, would love to continue the streak.
Barça Universal’s prediction: 2-1 to the Catalans.
Preview: Barcelona’s strongest XI against Real Madrid
The title race is well and truly wide open. With Atletico Madrid still leaking points and Real Madrid trying to cope up with the tight schedule the Champions League brings with it, Barcelona would hope to be the favourites.
Barcelona travels to Madrid to face a team missing some big names. Sergio Ramos, Rafael Varane, Eden Hazard and Daniel Carvajal all miss out on the decisive clash. Nevertheless, if Los Blancos‘ performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, El Clasico will be a battle to remember. Meanwhile, Barcelona will once again have the services of Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
The result on Saturday will count for so much in the title race. In this creme-de-la-creme of clashes, here is how Barcelona could lineup against Real Madrid.
Marc Andre ter Stegen is always the first name on the list for Ronald Koeman. At the Alfredo de Stefano, the German wall will don the gloves and aim to keep the Madrid attack at bay.
Gerard Pique finds himself back in the Squad, however, it seems unlikely he will be given a start considering lack of match fitness. The three-man defence system has worked wonders for the Catalans, and Koeman will not look to change the system. A trio of Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Clement Lenglet could possibly start on Saturday.
Oscar Mingueza has been rock solid and on a constant rise. With every passing game, the youngster’s confidence grows, and so does the performance. Meanwhile, Clement Lenglet had a tremendous game against Real Valladolid, hardly placing a foot wrong. The Frenchman finally looks to be hitting his stride. Ronald Araujo is fit and ready to start once again and will have to be the leader on the field on the night.
The midfield is where the game will be won or lost for Barcelona. The hosts boast of one of the most fearsome trios in midfield, who reiterated their greatness against Liverpool midweek.
Up against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, it will be crucial for Frenkie de Jong to start in midfield. The Dutchman is one of the best in the business in controlling the tempo of the midfield.
The No.21 will be accompanied by Barcelona’s veteran maestro Sergio Busquets. Busquets will account for so much of controlling the midfield. Moreover, his distribution and defensive contributions will be invaluable.
Pedri will complete the midfield alongside the others. The recently internationally capped Spaniard will have to be on the top of his game at the di Stefano. He will be the fulcrum of Barcelona’s creative outlet.
Sergino Dest did face stagnation in performance last month. In the last few games, however, there has been a resurgence. The USMNT fullback has been more lively than ever in attack and has been completing take-one for fun. It will be crucial for him to exploit the right-wing on the night.
Jordi Alba will unsurprisingly continue to start at left wing-back. With Real Madrid being weakened at right-back, Alba will have his chance on a platter to once again come up trumps.
Ousmane Dembele has often been Koeman’s go-to option as a central player in the new formation. Once again, a two-man forward line could see the Frenchman return to duties in the front line.
Lionel Messi had a relatively quiet game against Valladolid, his first one in 2021. However, he will look to step up on the biggest stage in El Clasico, as he always does. The Argentine has been at the peak of his powers this year, and he could inspire the side to another title with a great game tonight.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Antoine Griezmann, who recently welcomed his third child, will be more motivated than ever to return to his peak powers. The Frenchman undoubtedly has a celebration or two in store for the latest member of his family and will hunt for a chance to showcase it on Saturday.
Fransisco Trincao could come on for Ousmane Dembele late in the second half to bring in fresh legs. His intricate dribbling could prove invaluable on the night.
Ilaix Moriba could be utilized to ramp up the pressure in the midfield, while Riqui Puig is bound to get a few minutes as well.