Football Features

Juventus vs Barcelona: Five things to expect as Champions League royalty collide

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 9:15, 28 October 2020

Barcelona’s trip to Juventus is undoubtedly one of the blockbuster ties of Matchday Two in the Champions League.

The game is a rematch from the 2014/15 final, which Barcelona won 3-1 to record their fifth Champions League win. Since then the Blaugrana haven’t been back to the showcase event while Juve made it back in 2017 only to be devastated by Real Madrid.

These sides are two of the great underachievers in the history of the European Cup, relative to their quality, but with new managers in the dugouts and change in the air, both teams will be hoping to get back into the final and reassert themselves atop the continent this season. First they have to get through each other, and we’ve come up with five predictions for what happens when these two go head-to-head.

1. Juventus will line-up like…

Andrea Pirlo has tended to favour a variation on the 3-5-2 shape in his short career as Juventus manager. The Italian excelled in this formation back when he was a player for Juve so it makes sense for him to turn to it as a coach.

Given the injuries in defence (Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt are out) it’s likely that Leonardo Bonucci will be rushed back from the knock he picked up at the weekend to play between Merih Demiral and former Real Madrid man Danilo. The midfield is expected to be Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur again, with Arthur likely to be used off the bench against his former side.

Out-wide expect Federico Chiesa to substitute for Alex Sandro, much as he did against Dynamo, whilst Juan Cuadrado will be charged with patrolling the other touchline. And then in attack Aaron Ramsey and Dejan Kulusevski will probe behind Alvaro Morata. This attacking trio is who Pirlo will be trusting to hurt the Blaugrana and with their quality of pace and skill, they just might do it.

2. Barcelona will line-up like…

Ronald Koeman has stuck to 4-2-3-1 religiously as Barcelona coach and that will continue in Turin. With Marc-André Ter Stegen still out, Neto will keep goal. Sergino Dest was one of the few bright spots of the Clásico so expect him to start at right-back next to Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan isn’t a regular but Gerard Piqué’s Matchday One red card will force him into a start. Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba are usual suspects on this stage for the Blaugrana.

Frenkie de Jong should once again hold midfield but after his horrorshow in the Clásico it’s hard to see Sergio Busquets retaining his place. More likely is that Juve oldboy Miralem Pjanic gets the chance to impress against his old club, a chance he’ll be determined to take.

In attack Lionel Messi should once again be the No. 10 with Ansu Fati leading the line. Neither Philippe Coutinho nor Pedri impressed in the Clásico and the starting berth will be decided by the Brazilian’s uncertain fitness. Francisco Trincao should come in to add some pace on Barcelona’s right which again means Antoine Griezmann gets to watch from the bench.

3. Morata on the mark

Morata is a striker with a fantastic skill-set who has begun his second-spell in Turin quite nicely with 3 goals in 4 games. “Was I expecting Morata to play like this? This is why we bought him,” said Pirlo, in a ringing endorsement of his No. 9.

So obviously he will lead the line, and as Barcelona have shown all season there is space behind their defence that can be attacked if a side preps their counter-attacks properly. Moreover, Morata has scored twice against Barcelona already, once for Juventus in a Champions League final, drawing the Old Lady level back in 2015.

With Cristiano Ronaldo ruled out, someone needs to step up for the hosts.

Juventus vs. Barcelona anytime goalscorer odds (via William Hill): 

  • Leo Messi: EVS
  • Alvaro Morata: 6/4
  • Ansu Fati: 6/4
  • Paulo Dybala: 17/10
  • Dejan Kulusevski: 15/8
  • Ousmane Dembélé: 13/5

*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of publication (09:00 – 28/10/2020). BeGambleAware.

4. Pjanic to star against his old side

Busquets has struggled pretty much all season. Father Time comes for everyone and he came for Busquets over the summer, leaving the Spaniard looking a shell of himself in this 4-2-3-1 and causing no end of problems for De Jong’s performances individually and the team in general. In fact the midfield looked at its most cohesive against Ferencvaros, when Busquets was benched.

So expect the same again, with Pjanic starting against his old side. The Bosnian is far more mobile and defensively sturdy than the Spaniard and thus is a much better compliment to De Jong, who can then take over midfield and be the fulcrum he was at Ajax.

Pjanic’s ability to defend is going to be huge against a Juventus side that will look to get in behind Barcelona, and the Bosnian’s long-range passing and quick thinking could see him launch several attacks for pacy forwards like Fati and Trincao. Pjanic isn’t a superstar, but he is set to shine brightly against his old club.

5. Barcelona to take control of Group G

Juventus versus Barcelona is a classic European tie. They’ve met eight times in competitive play, with three matches ending in draws, Juve winning two and the Blaugrana triumphing three times. They meet now both at the beginning of new projects, and whilst Pirlo is likely to last longer in Turin than Koeman is in Catalunya (because of the upcoming club elections) right now, Koeman’s side is further along.

Juve have been struck by several injuries, but even at full-health probably don’t have anything to answer to the devastating combination of Messi and Fati. Those two alone, coupled with Pjanic allowing the midfield to function properly, should be too much for Juventus to handle. If Barcelona’s wide players step up and perform, or if Griezmann comes off the bench fully motivated and focused, then Juve are at risk of being well and truly outgunned even at home.

Juventus vs. Barcelona match outcome odds (via William Hill): 

  • Juventus: 19/10
  • Draw: 12/5
  • Barcelona: 29/20

*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of publication (09:00 – 28/10/2020). BeGambleAware.