Juventus will host Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday. Both teams will be entering the game in differing form.
While Juve have control of Serie A, sitting six points clear at the top, Barca’s Liga title hopes received a blow when they lost 2-0 to Malaga at La Rosaleda on Saturday. The famed front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all misfired, with the latter being sent off in the second half.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique can usually count on his star strikers to shine in Europe’s premier club competition. Frankly, five-time winners Barca need their marquee forward line to click against an ageing but still formidable Juventus defence.
For all of Barca’s attacking menace, Juve are no slouches in the final third, either. In fact, manager Massimiliano Allegri’s options have been boosted by the news Croatian target man Mario Mandzukic is fit enough to feature on Tuesday, per Goal’s Anthony Sormani.
Mandzukic is a force in the air and offers an effective physical complement to the pace and trickery of forward Paulo Dybala and winger Juan Cuadrado. Yet it’s a familiar foe to Barcelona who makes Juventus tick up top.
Former Real Madrid man Gonzalo Higuain remains arguably the most effective centre-forward on the continent. The Argentinian has scored 27 goals in all competitions this season, according to WhoScored.com.
Cutting off the supply to Juve’s Higuain-led attack will be vital for Barca in the away leg. However, their task has been made tougher by holding midfielder Sergio Busquets’ suspension.
Busquets hasn’t had his best season, but he’s still an intelligent shield in front of defence for the five-time winners. It’s going to be difficult for the visitors to win the midfield battle without him.
Speaking of bossing the middle of the park, Barca will have a better chance of doing so if Enrique reinstalls Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic in midfield. Iniesta started on the bench for the defeat to Malaga, while Rakitic was serving a suspension.
The Blaugrana missed their ingenuity and energy.
Iniesta and Rakitic can make a difference in Turin, but Barca’s chances of progressing hinge on the form of their front three. If Messi, Suarez and Neymar can turn on the style, Juve will be in trouble.
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