Juventus host Barcelona on Wednesday evening in a battle of the European heavyweights in Group G of the Champions League.
The clash makes for an intriguing affair with both sides – typically at the top of the ladder in European football – undergoing transitional, rebuild periods. The two teams are completely different to the ones that faced off in the 2015 final, with Juve now coached by Andrea Pirlo and Barcelona by Ronald Koeman.
Barca are rebuilding after a shocking 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munch in last season’s semi-final sent the club into crisis mode and forced a hard reset. Lionel Messi has just about stayed, but the club is still trying to gather itself after a difficult summer and is fresh from a humbling 3-1 Clasico defeat.
Juve, meanwhile, are also trying to rebuild with Pirlo in the hot seat; he replaced Maurizio Sarri at the end of the season after a disappointing campaign saw the Old Lady barely escape with the Serie A title and nothing else, as they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Lyon,
When is Kick Off? Wednesday 29 October
What Time is Kick Off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it Played? Allianz Stadium
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport 3, CBS Sports (USA)
Referee? Danny Makkelie
A positive coronavirus test means that Cristiano Ronaldo is a major doubt for Juventus, potentially denying fans a reunion between himself and Lionel Messi for what would’ve been the first time since 2018.
Ronaldo isn’t Juve’s only worry, either. Giorgio Chiellini and Mathijs de Ligt are both uncertainties for the clash, and left back Alex Sandro is also out injured, giving Pirlo a selection headache at the back.
Paulo Dybala is likely to start should Ronaldo be out, despite his long-term future with the club being in doubt with contract talks still ongoing.
For La Blaugrana, they remain without Marc-Andre ter Stegen who recently signed a new deal, but is unavailable having had knee surgery. Neto is likely to continue in goal against his former club.
Philippe Coutinho is unavailable for the clash after a hamstring injury halted his positive return to life in Barcelona, meaning Antoine Griezmann could get the nod. The Frenchman isn’t fancied by Koeman and was used as a late substitute during Barca’s Clasico defeat to Real Madrid at the weekend, but may get a rare start to stake his claim here.
Miralem Pjanic and Arthur Melo are both set for a reunion with former employers after Juventus and Barcelona swapped the two players in the summer. Neither has enjoyed a strong start to the season, however, making their returns a lacklustre event.
Juventus: Szczesny; Demiral, Bonucci, Danilo; Cuadrado, Rabiot, Ramsey, Bentancur, Chiesa; Dybala, Morata.
Barcelona: Neto; Dest, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Dembele, Pjanic, De Jong, Griezmann; Fati, Messi.
Both sides have endured difficult starts to their respective seasons. Barca come into the tie off the back of a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid at the weekend, while Juventus drew 1-1 with Hellas Verona.
Barca showed initial glimpses of promise at the beginning of the season, winning their first two games and drawing their third, but they’ve since fallen into a run of inconsistency thanks to more behind-the-scenes disputes, and now sit 12th in La Liga after five games.
I Bianconeri aren’t impressing either in Italy. Their title defence has gotten off to a poor start as they sit fifth in Serie A, winning two games but drawing three due to a lack of conviction. Appointing Pirlo – who had no prior managerial experience and had only just taken over the club’s Under-23 team – was a big risk, and it’s going to take some time for him to find his feet.
Both sides got off to a winning start in the Champions League last week, meaning a win for either side will send them top of the group. Here’s each side’s last five results.
Juventus 1-1 Hellas Verona (25/10)
Dynamo Kiev 0-2 Juventus (20/10)
Crotone 1-1 Juventus (17/10)
Juventus 3-0 Napoli (4/10)
Roma 2-2 Juventus (27/09)
Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid (24/10)
Barcelona 5-1 Ferencvaros (20/10)
Getafe 1-0 Barcelona (17/10)
Barcelona 1-1 Sevilla (4/10)
Celta Vigo 0-3 Barcelona (1/10)
There’s never a good time not to win, but both sides are absolutely desperate for a statement victory here.
Both Juventus and Barcelona can’t get a hold of their season, but winning in Europe over a fellow giant would be the perfect way in finding some confidence and kicking on to put together some results.
Without disrespecting their opposition, Group G should be a matter of who finishes first and second between the two sides – anything less than qualification would be disastrous.
Barcelona came out on top in their 2015 final clash, but there’s a completely different environment around the club currently. Juventus don’t look great either and have also gone backwards. Don’t expect either side to grab this game by the scruff of the neck.
Prediction: Juventus 1-1 Barcelona