Tonight, Juventus will host Barcelona in Turin for the second matchday of the Champions League group stages. With both teams having won their first clash in Europe, they are looking to take control of the table by beating their biggest rival.
For Miralem Pjanić, however, this will be more than a big clash. After all, he will potentially face his former team should Ronald Koeman choose to give him a shot. Needless to say, he is excited about it, as he told the press ahead of the clash.
“I am looking forward to this match with a lot of enthusiasm, for all the people I know and I appreciate here at Juventus, but now I am a Barça player.”
The Bosnian midfielder has mostly been among the substitutes but he is ready to give his all, both in training and in games. Of course, with the coach mostly electing to field two midfielders, it was tough to get a spot in the gala XI.
“I’m at a big club and it’s normal that there is competition. We can also play three in the midfield, but that depends on the coach. All I can do is train hard.”
“It’s a new system and I have to adapt to it. I’ve also changed leagues, it’s a new country. I’ll do my best to help my team, like I did at Juve.”
Of course, Barcelona’s start to the season was rocky, to say the least. However, the campaign is long and the team is improving.
“The team has the quality to be successful. In the league we are not where we want to be but the season is a long one.”
Pjanić also had to comment on both Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, players who will definitely be in the spotlight in Turin.
“Messi is the best of all time and it is a privilege to play alongside him. It’s a unique chance to have played alongside Messi and Cristiano.”
“Griezmann is a goalscorer and a great player and I am sure he will play well in the next few games. When he start to score goals, he will be vitally important for the team.”
Finally, a couple of words on Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus and the fact that Barcelona will once again play in an empty stadium.
“They are a very strong team so it will be a difficult game but our objective is to be at our best to pick up all three points.”
“I know Juventus very well and I am waiting excitedly for the game. We would like to play in front of the fans. Let’s hope we can overcome the current situation as quickly as possible.”
Official: Barcelona starting lineup to face Elche — Koeman makes five changes
Barcelona will be hoping to get back to winning ways as they host Elche at the Camp Nou for the rescheduled round one fixture. Ronald Koeman has heavily rotated his team for this encounter, making five changes to the team that took on Cadiz on the weekend.
The first of these changes comes in the heart of the defence, with Samuel Umtiti coming in to replace Clement Lenglet, starting alongside Gerard Pique. Oscar Mingueza gets a start as well, but it is at right-back instead of Sergino Dest. Jordi Alba retains his spot at the left-back position, while Marc-Andre Ter Stegen holding the gloves.
Sergio Busquets had a fairly decent game against Cadiz, but sees himself on the bench with Miralem Pjanic starting as the anchor. Beside him, Frenkie De Jong and Pedri will be acting as interiors as they have so often this season.
There are two changes in the attack as well, with Fransisco Trincao getting a well-deserved start on the right-wing, replacing Ousmane Dembele. Antoine Griezmann starts on the bench, as well, and has been replaced by Martin Braithwaite. Lionel Messi will spearhead the team hoping to keep his goal-scoring run alive.
Confirmed XI: ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; de Jong, Pjanic, Pedri; Trincao, Messi, Braithwaite
Koeman seems to have played all his cards all at once for this game, replacing every other player on the pitch. While Mingueza truly deserved a place in the XI today, it should have been at centre-half instead of Umtiti, who put in a heart-wrenching display against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey no more than two weeks back.