Bayern Munich and Juventus met three years ago, placing their two-legged quarterfinal in a completely different chapter of the modern era. Several key players for each team have remained the same, but both have increase the quality in their team by a significant margin. That sets up a very interesting tie in the last six teams, both with aspirations to reach the final stages of the competition once more.
The match may not be the best defensive showing each side can offer, despite the fact each team have conceded the least amount of goals in their respective countries. Six key defenders – three from each team – have forced both Pep Guardiola and Massimiliano Allegri to make significant tactical changes. That means putting players in fascinating tactical positions, and expanding the roles of the star players in their respective squads.
Guardiola has had some real tactical battles in his first two and half seasons in Munich, but this one may trump them all. Juventus play in a style Bayern are very foreign to, and the way Allegri constructed his squad allows him to match up perfectly with his opponents. Bayern will definitely have their hands full, and their quest to send Guardiola off with a Champions League trophy may come to an emphatic end.
The Match (9th Meeting)
Location: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Bayern: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L – 8 YC
Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Sports 2 | HD, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports GO, Fox Soccer 2Go
Canada: BeIN Sports, BeIN Sports Connect
UK: BT Sport 2, BT Sport Live Streaming, BT Sport Showcase
Germany: Sky Sport 1 & 3 | HD, Sky Go, WDR event, TeleClub Sport Live
UEFA Champions League: 4 W, 1 D, 3 L
Largest Victory: 4-1 (December 8, 2009, Turin)
Largest Defeat: 1-2 (November 2, 2005, Turin)
As far as tests go, this one will be a toughie, especially with the shape Bayern's defense is in. By the same token, the players Guardiola will likely field have been battle tested all month, and their relationship with one-another on the field make them the best options Bayern have.
Without a doubt, Bayern's defense will be tested heavily in size and strength, and it may not be a battle they will win. A rested Xabi Alonso will make a difference though, and he will sit deeper than Arturo Vidal has as a holding midfielder. That will require Thiago Alcantara to play in midfield to allow Bayern to connect midfield and attack, and he may even present a mismatch with his ball skill and his passing ability.
In fact, mismatches may play into Bayern's favor in attack, although Massimiliano Allegri will definitely try to keep a wide defensive presence to prevent Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben to do their usual antics. That will make Juan Bernat and Philipp Lahm a very important part of the attack, and their service will have to be spot on. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller will not beat Juventus's defense in physicality, so they will need good service and timely positioning to get chances on goal. The two start forwards may be forced to start with the ball outside of the penalty area, something Lewandowski has been more inclined to do over the past three months.
Against a Juventus team that can match up with everybody, Bayern will be taken out of their rhythm, and how they adjust will be a telling sign of how many trophies they raise at the end of the season.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Douglas Costa – Thiago Alcantara – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Joshua Kimmich – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Serdar Tasci, Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Mario Götze, Franck Ribéry, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Javi Martinez (knee)
Though Borussia Mönchengladbach have a good case, Juventus may have the biggest single-season turnaround in recent years. Allegri's team went from 12th place after 10 Serie A matches to second place after 20 matches, and now have a firm grasp over first place once again. New stars have emerged and stars of old have returned healthy, and Allegri is now spoiled with a wealth of quality talent in the squad.
That talented squad has seen its own bad stretch of injuries. Mario Mandžukić – a strong contributor to the rise of Paulo Dybala – may not be able to play against his former team with muscle injuries, and the defense has three important pieces. Those losses may end up being a footnote though, Alvaro Morata showing he is the next all-around center forward to terrorize defenses and Andrea Barzagli showing why Italy still breeds the best defenders.
The drastic amount of injuries has changed the way Juventus look though, forcing to play with four deep defenders rather than just three. Paul Pogba is the main reason they have not skipped a beat in the process, supporting Patrice Evra on the right flank while also driving the attack forward. Once Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal departed, Pogba has been the main source of inspiration in midfield, though the defense knows how to pick out a run from Dybala, Morata, or Juan Cuadrado.
Juventus may have taken a step back from the team that reached the Champions League Final a year ago, but that step was not very big. With their ability to absorb pressure and finish with style, they are not a team anyone wants to face in the knockout stages.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Paulo Dybala – Alvaro Morata
Paul Pogba – Sami Khedira – Claudio Marchisio – Juan Cuadrado
Patrice Evra – Andrea Barzagli – Leonardo Bonucci – Stephan Lichtsteiner
Bench: Neto, Daniele Rugani, Simone Padoin, Stefano Sturaro, Hernanes, Roberto Pereyra, Simone Zaza
Out/Suspended: Alex Sandro (ankle), Kwadwo Asamoah (muscle injury), Martin Caceres (achilles), Georgio Chielini (calf), Mario Mandzukic (hamstring)
With each side able to adjust to their opponents, this will be a tight tactical battle from the outset. Pogba is the player in attack Bayern will have the most trouble with, and that will make things easier for Juventus's strong-finishing strikers. Juventus does not handle pressure well in their own half, something Douglas or Lewandowski may be able to take advantage of. The match will ultimately come down to defensive mistakes, and with the amount of Champions League experience on both teams, there will not be many.
The Other Action
UEFA Champions League Round of 16
SL Benfica (1-0) Zenit St. Petersburg
Paris Saint-Germain (2-1) Chelsea
KAA Gent (2-3) VfL Wolfsburg
AS Roma (0-2) Real Madrid (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Arsenal vs. Barcelona (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
PSV Eindhoven vs. Atlético Madrid (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Manchester City (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)