Pep Guardiola may deny the importance of this match, but there is no hiding it: this is a defining match. This match will define Bayern Munich's season, Pep Guardiola's tenure, and how the German champions approach European competition in seasons to come.
Though they started the season slow and allowed to away goals in the first leg, Juventus is not to be trifled with. They went from yesterday's news in Italy to making the Serie A a complete joke. They have some injuries, and two away goals to climb, but with 10 clean sheets away from home this season, they certainly know how to get a result. Bayern have let points slip away in the league, making a slip-up against Juventus well within the realm of possibility.
Still, Bayern have all of their attacking talent back, as well as some important defensive pieces. Bayern have made four straight semifinals, but if they do not make a fifth, football will be very different in Munich.
The Match (10th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Jonas Eriksson
Bayern: 3 W, 1 D, 0 L – 6 YC, 1 RC
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UEFA Champions League: 4 W, 2 D, 3 L
Largest Victory: 4-1 (December 8, 2009, Turin)
Largest Defeat: 1-2 (November 2, 2005, Turin)
When Bayern needed a lift, Werder Bremen came to town, and they had the courtesy of not playing their best team so the defending Bundesliga champions could trounce them. The best part? Guardiola did not even have to use all of his best pieces, and now many of them are fully rested for a very important second leg.
The last time Bayern seemed prepared against Juventus though, they conceded two late goals to allow the Italian champions back into the tie. However, Bayern played some of their best football of the season in that first leg, so Guardiola may recycle some of his tactics. Though he has shuffled attacking pieces around, he seems to have settled on his favorite forwards, and those forwards have played most of the season together.
The one change he may make involves Medhi Benatia. David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich have stepped up well with the center back depth so thin, but Bayern suffered without a true defense against Juventus. Benatia is the best aerial threat Bayern have in defense, and they are going to need that in order to handle the big bodies Juventus have in both attack and defense.
Bayern stepped up to the occasion in home legs last season, and they will need to do so again to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Douglas Costa – Thiago Alcantara – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
David Alaba – Medhi Benatia – Joshua Kimmich – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Rafinha, Xabi Alonso, Sebastian Rode, Franck Ribery, Mario Götze, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Javi Martinez (knee)
Juventus had some odds already stacked against them after allowing two away goals in Berlin. Their luck got even worse on Tuesday, the club announcing Paulo Dybala and Claudio Marchisio will miss the match with calf injuries. That is two fixtures in Massimiliano Allegri's squad, which has caused him to already make some adjustments.
If Allegri has shown anything at his time with Juventus though, it is his ability to use his entire squad. Hernanes has taken Marchisio in midfield, and while he has not replicated the same production, he has filled a similar role Allegri has tried to accomplish. As more offensive minded, other players like Sami Khedira and Paul Pogba can better shield the defense, something crucial to keeping yet another clean sheet on the road.
The big squad conundrum Allegri faces is in attack. With Mario Mandžukić questionable to play, the Italian coach has thought of playing Alvaro Morata up by himself, or play Simone Zaza alongside him. That would change a lot of things Juventus does on both side of the field but it mostly affects how much more the midfield needs to be involved in attack.
Juventus have dropped only two points in their last 20 games, which makes winning kind of a specialty. With the way they absorb pressure, the Old Lady only needs one goal to advance to the quarterfinals
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Alvaro Morata – Mario Mandžukić
Paul Pogba – Hernanes – Sami Khedira – Juan Cuadrado
Patrice Evra – Andrea Barzagli – Leonardo Bonucci – Stephan Lichtsteiner
Bench: Neto, Alex Sandro, Daniele Rugani, Kwadwo Asamoah, Roberto Pereyra, Stefano Sturaro, Simone Zaza
Out/Suspended: Martin Caceras (achilles), Georgio Chiellini (calf), Paulo Dybala (calf), Claudio Marchisio (calf)
More than ever before, this is a match Bayern are going to explode out of the gates in. That will work to their benefit with their plethora of attackers, but may leave them exposed to a goal against the run of play. Juventus will try to target Kimmich in defense again, and if they do, it will likely be through they air. This tie will be air tight, but Bayern tend to find the right result at home.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (2-1) Juventus
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