UEFA Champions League is back again as Barça travel to Turin for their most challenging game of the group stage.
Date and kick-off time: Wednesday 28 October 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Allianz Stadium
Competition: UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Matchday 2
Referee: Danny Makkelie
The first matchday of the UEFA Champions League was as eventful as it can get. Across eight groups, the teams displayed some impressive football kicking off this year’s tournament. In group G, the big guns played the underdogs of the group and walked away with comfortable wins. Now, in the second matchday, they face each other in one of the most exciting clashes of the week.
Barcelona come into this game on the back of a disappointing defeat in El Clásico. While the Blaugranas won their first Champions League game last week, they are winless in three games in the league. The initial test for the new manager was to get past the three challenging games, and Ronald Koeman has failed in all three. The gruelling month finishes off with yet another testing game at Turin.
Juventus, too are on the path to a similar season, adapting to a club legend as their new manager as Andrea Pirlo takes charge at the helm. While they opened their Champions League account with a two-nil win away at Dynamo Kyiv, they have struggled in their league. The Old Lady have had only two victories in Serie A, of which one got awarded to them as Napoli failed to turn up at the Allianz Stadium.
“There are great players in Barça, despite some absences. The keys for us will be desire and determination. It will be difficult, but beautiful.”Andrea Pirlo
Both the teams have significant absences in their squads. The centre-back spot is especially on crisis mode as injuries and suspension have caused a severe lack of personnel at the position. Juventus miss Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt to injuries with Leonardo Bonucci also a doubt as he got off the pitch midway vs Hellas Verona.
Alex Sandro (left-back) is also unavailable with Merish Demiral being the only fully-fit centre-half. One of the most vital absentees is Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Portuguese is yet to recover from COVID-19.
Barcelona will be without the services of Gerard Piqué as the Spaniard is suspended after picking up a red last game. Philippe Coutinho is set for a spell away from the action with a muscle injury joining the likes of March-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti. Ronald Araújo and Clement Lenglet are the only two centre-backs in the squad with B-team CBs also injured and not included here. On the plus side, all the fullbacks are back to full fitness.
What to expect from Juventus?
Andrea Pirlo took over the reins from Maurizio Sarri over the summer as his first-ever coaching job at the top level. The Professor came into the job with a specific idea to play football and has been trying to implement it. The Italian has preferred a 3-4-1-2 system with two centre-backs, coupled with Danilo making the backline. The back-three helps in building from defence with able ball-carriers in either Rabiot or Arthur. But, with the centre-backs stretched thin, the Italian has chosen to go with a back four.
“We’ll play with four in defence, it’s the only viable solution at this time. In midfield it will be a challenge between two very technical departments.”Andrea Pirlo
New loan signing Federico Chiesa could start on the left-wing with Juan Cuadrado likely to be deployed as the right-back against Barça. Danilo could be on the left-back duties with the lack of options there. Adrien Rabiot, Arthur Melo, and Rodrigo Bentancur might make up the midfield to get a better balance. New signings Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski finish the teamsheet with Paulo Dybala slowly progressing his way into the starting eleven.
Both Chiesa and Cuadrado are able crossers with both feet and with Alvaro Morata upfront, they could always find him at the end of their crosses. Dejan Kulusevski is an excellent prospect with quick feet and stinger of a shot, who came off the bench to rescue a point during the weekend for the Bianconeri. With players like Paolo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey, Pirlo has a lot of quality on the bench.
Pirlo would want his side to exploit the Barcelona defence by getting in behind their two-man midfield. With a different formation, the Italian would like his team to adapt quickly and get in the half-spaces. The 41-year-old might make his team pass the ball quickly to avert the press and get up the pitch as fast as possible.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Ronald Koeman has had a mixed response from the fans in these first few games. While he’s not afraid to bench the senior players when not performing, his in-game management has been nothing short of unavailing. The Dutchman has thrown in attacking players for defenders and midfielders when chasing the game. And that has resulted in an imbalance of the midfield leaving the defenders reeling due to numerical inferiority.
Philippe Coutinho is injured, and there are a variety of players in-line to replace the Brazilian. Antonie Griezmann could get back into the eleven after barely featuring over the last two games. Or Koeman could continue with the impressive Pedri and play one of Trincao or Dembele in the right-wing. While Ansu Fati started as a nine over the weekend, he could return to the left-wing this time around.
❗Official — The squad list to face Juventus:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 27, 2020
Dest, Araujo, Busquets, Aleñá, Griezmann, Pjanic, Braithwaite, Messi, Dembélé, Puig, Neto, Lenglet, Pedri, Trincao, Alba, Roberto, De Jong, Fati, Firpo, Iñaki Peña, Arnau Tenas.
Ronald Araújo and Clement Lenglet are the only options at centre-back, and Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba might partner them in defence giving rest to Sergiño Dest. Miralem Pjanic could come into the eleven considering a dip in Sergio Busquets’ performance of late. With two mobile midfielders, Barça could cover the spaces the fullbacks leave and prevent the counter-attacks.
Ronald Koeman would be hoping for that Lionel Messi, brings his shooting boots tomorrow. While the Argentine has been excellent in overall play, his output goal-wise has been surprisingly underwhelming. A big game like this would be an ideal time to get back his mojo in front of the goal and further help the team.
Previous games: DWDWD
Juventus 1–1 Verona | Serie A
Dynamo Kyiv 0–2 Juventus| UEFA Champions League
Crotone 1–1 Juventus | Serie A
Juventus 3–0 Napoli | Serie A (Juventus awarded walk-over)
Roma 2–2 Juventus | Serie A
Position in Serie A
9 points in 5 games
2 wins, 3 draws and 0 loss
10 Goals Scored, 4 Goal Conceded
+6 Goal Difference
Previous games: LWLDW
Barcelona 1–3 Real Madrid | La Liga
Barcelona 5–1 Ferencváros | UEFA Champions League
Getafe 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–1 Sevilla | La Liga
Celta Vigo 0–3 Barcelona | La Liga
Position in La Liga
7 points in 5 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses
9 Goals Scored, 5 Goals Conceded
+4 Goal Difference
Last 5 meetings
Juventus 0–0 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League 17/18
Barcelona 3–0 Juventus | UEFA Champions League 17/18
Barcelona 0–0 Juventus | UEFA Champions League 16/17
Juventus 3–0 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League 16/17
Juventus 1–3 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League Final 14/15
• Juventus have won 7 of their last 8 matches (Champions League).
• Barcelona have scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches (Champions League).
• Barcelona are unbeaten in four of their last five meetings against Juventus.
• Juventus are unbeaten in all competitions this season.
Injured: Cristiano Ronaldo, Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro, Giorgio Chiellini
Cuadrado · Demiral · Bonucci · Danilo
Rabiot · Bentancur · Arthur
Kulusevski · Morata · Chiesa
Coach: Andrea Pirlo
Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon), Philippe Coutinho (Hamstring)
Suspended: Gerard Piqué
Roberto · Araújo · Lenglet · Alba
Pjanic · de Jong
Trincao · Griezmann · Fati
Coach: Ronald Koeman
A big game for both the managers as they try to bring their sides back to form. A win here would help the winner get a sufficient advantage of finishing at the top of the group. Injuries have stretched both Barcelona and Juventus thin, and this is a chance for the deputies to perform and impress their respective gaffers. With both sides equally struggling for form, it is expected to go down to the wire in Turin.
Barça Universal Prediction: 1-2 win for the Catalans.
How should Barcelona lineup against Dynamo Kyiv?
If the horrid performance against Atletico Madrid was not enough, injuries continue to plague Barcelona’s season further. The Catalans were outplayed at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, the question is: How does the team recover from a defeat like that?
After initial injuries to Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets threatened to derail the Catalans season, the club has now confirmed both Gerard Pique and Seri Roberto to be out through injury for a long spell.
Yet, for all the mayhem in the league, Barcelona’s position in the champions league is safe. With three wins from their opening three encounters, they sit untouched at the top of the group. Ronald Koeman pointed to the same when asked about his decision of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong. With so many key players out injured and others rested, how should Barcelona line-up against Dynamo Kyiv?
What to expect from Dynamo Kyiv?
The first game between the two sides provided more than it had promised. Kyiv were missing 13 players through COVID-19, yet that did not reflect on the pitch. Barcelona dominated the opening spell of the game. However, beyond the 25-minute mark, there was a sudden drop in energy levels. The Catalans seemed to ease off, opening the gates to a close-fought level headed battle which could have gone either way.
Mircea Lucescu has stuck to his successful 4-1-4-1 in the Champions League too. The overload in midfield is a potent obstacle to most oppositions, though one would expect Barcelona to break it down. The Ukrainians have often resorted to, and will most probably look to once again implement a low block. The press is high, however, isn’t very prominent in the opposition half.
Lucescu will bring up a harbour of troubles for Barcelona. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)
Instead, Lucescu’s men look to hit on the counter. Victor Tsygankov, Vitaliy Buyalski and Vladydlav Supryaga have time and time again proved to invaluable for the same.
Learning from their mistakes, Barcelona will have to plug the spaces in between lines to come back home with all three points. It is a much younger side travelling to Ukraine. Moreover, with this being a chance for many of them to impress, one can expect the youth to step up.
How should the Barcelona line-up?
The only department that seems sorted for the time being is the Goalkeeper. Yet, ter Stegen too is coming off a horrid mistake at the Wanda Metropolitano. One that cost Barcelona the match. Undoubtedly, the German will be keen to make a statement on Tuesday.
The defence is in jeopardy. Gerard Pique could likely miss anywhere between three months to the end of the season after suffering a muscle sprain and partial cruciate ligament tear. Ronald Araujo is not fit to compete either, and with Samuel Umtiti’s state not helping the cause, Koeman stares into blackness.
Yet, one man’s loss is another’s gain. Given the situation, young Barcelona B centre-back Oscar Mingueza could get his chance to impress. In fact, it was a point Koeman specifically hinted to at the pre-match interview. Alongside him will undoubtedly be Clement Lenglet, whose importance is now more than ever. In Pique’s absence, the Frenchman will have to take up the onus of leadership and marshalling the troops.
Sergi Roberto’s injury opens the door for Sergino Dest to start the game at right-back. Unquestionably, his pace will be crucial to neutralise Kyiv’s threat on the counter.
At left-back, one expects Jordi Alba to start once again. In the absence of Lionel Messi, the Spaniard’s importance will be more than ever to create chances going forward.
Ronald Koeman could opt for a change in formation going into this clash, given his limited resources. Indeed, a 4-3-3 would be an ideal setup to try with the new crop of players. Miralem Pjanic could start as the defensive midfielder operating deeper in the position. Nevertheless, It is not a new role for the Bosnian, as he has played as a single pivot on many occasions in his career.
The midfield could be completed by the duo of Pedri and Carles Alena. Pedri had a comparatively quiet night against Atletico Madrid and will look to make amends. Carles Alena could finally get a well-deserved start after being neglected from the start of the season.
Antoine Griezmann could well start as the centre-forward on the night. The Frenchman has come under intense scrutiny by the media, both for his performances and statement made by people in his environment. Indeed, it will be an essential night for the World Cup winner, as he will lead the Catalan attack.
🗣 — Griezmann: "I am very well here at Barça, they have welcomed me very well. I want to help the team. They trusted me and now I want to reciprocate that trust by helping the team win. There is no problem with anyone, I'm really fine and I just ask you to leave me a bit calm." pic.twitter.com/XuOLl92GQH— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 23, 2020
Flanking him on the left side would be Ousmane Dembele, who is undoubtedly a major asset for Koeman. In these trying times with limited options, his all-round play comes as a whiff of fresh air.
On the right-flank, Fransisco Trincao would be the ideal option. Koeman has under-utilised the Portuguese winger so far. However, Tuesday night could be his chance to impress as the Dutch manager looks to rest key players. Moreover, his combination with Dest will be crucial for Barcelona to break down Lucescu’s side.