Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prediction: Barcelona vs Juventus

Best Odds: 3/1

Bookmakers: Bet365

Two of Europe’s biggest sides Barcelona and Juventus meet again at the brightest stage with the Champions League draw pitting them together in Group D where we will watch a replay of last season’s quarterfinal clash.

Barcelona

The visit of Serie A champions to Camp Nou this week is seen as the perfect test to Ernesto Valverde’s credentials in his first year in charge of the Catalan giants. Valverde joined Barcelona having replaced Luis Enrique and was faced with a difficult summer which saw Brazil superstar Neymar move to PSG in a world-record deal. Barcelona can’t say that a successful summer is behind them and they looked rather vulnerable in the Supercopa defeat to Real madrid. The Catalans also failed to boost their squad with the likes of Marco Verratti and Philippe Coutinho, but ended up bringing former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho and Borussia Dortmund starlet Ousmane Dembele instead. Despite the apparent lack of activity in the transfer market, Barcelona still boast one of the best squads in Europe and will be hoping that Leo Messi and Ivan Rakitic will be able to continue their fine form and guide Barcelona to a revenge victory over Bianconeri. The Catalans’ wounds are still fresh after that 3-0 aggregate win in the quarterfinals of the same competition. Barcelona will thus be eager to go strong straight from the off and grab a steering wheel firmly with both hands right from the start. Valverde’s men are coming off from three straight victories, which come as a wind in Barcelona’s sails ahead of this important Group D opener.

Team News

Valverde is unlikely to reward his new boys Paulinho and Dembele with starting lineups in the Juventus match as both are tipped to start from the bench.

Sergi Roberto and Arda Turan are confirmed absentees due to their knee and muscle injuries, respectively. Another player to miss the game is Rafinha who is making good progress after his knee injury though.

Juventus

Bianconeri boss Max Allegri keeps doing wonders with his Juventus squad which once again went through an overhaul this summer. Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Juventus decided to sell star defender Leonardo Bonucci to league rivals AC Milan but that decision proved to be tactical as the Italian international was regarded as an unsettling factor to squad atmosphere and team spirit. Other than that, the squad core remained intact whereas the Old Lady once again added a couple of big-name signing. The likes of Federico Bernanrdeschi, Blaise Matuidi, Mattia De Sciglio, Rodrigo Bentancur, Benedict Howedes, Douglas Costa and Wojciech Szczesny are all expected to raise the squad quality to another level and increase competition for places significantly. Allegri once again has a top crop of players at his disposal and seeing Juventus do such a great job at the beginning of the season can hardly come as a surprise. Juventus opened the new 2017/18 season with three consecutive Serie A wins over Cagliari, Genoa and Chievo. The Old Lady demonstrated a great play along the way, beating their rivals with ease and comfort. They won’t have as easy job at Nou Camp but as one of the strongest sides on the continent they are still expected to put up a hell of a fight against Barcelona.

Team News

Max Allegri confirmed Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio are both unavailable for the trip to Barcelona after missing out on the Saturday’s 3-0 win over Chievo.

Juventus could also be without key defender Giorgio Chiellini who is struggling to recover in time from a calf injury. Additionally, Marko PJaca remains the long-term absentee with his knee issue.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Over 2.5 goals were scored in 4 out of 5 meetings between these two sides
  • Barcelona won 20 of their last 23 home matches in all competitions
  • Juventus remained unbeaten in both of their visits to Camp Nou thus far
  • Leo Messi scored 5 goals already in the new season for Barcelona
  • Barcelona managed to keep three clean sheets in as many La Liga games

Conclusion

Barcelona did make a strong start to their domestic campaign but showed plenty of frailties in the double-legged Super Copa tie against Real Madrid which comes as a warning side for Ernesto Valverde’s men. Juventus are keen to show they are no pushovers and that their last season’s heroics against the Catalans were not a random act of success.

Verdict: Draw

Best Odds: 3/1

Bookmakers: Bet365

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