After the recent loss A.S. Roma suffered against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, Juventus are the only Italian team still left in the Champions League.
The team coached by Allegri, who won the title of best Italian coach last year, has to face German heavyweights and one of the competition favourites – Bayern Munich.
The first leg ended in a 2-2 draw, in fact in Turin the Germans dominated for over 65 minutes scoring two goals, first thanks to Thomas Muller and then Arjen Robben. However, Bayern Munich were not able to score the third goal to put the game beyond doubt. They let the “Bianconeri” come back into the game, first, with a goal from young striker, and arguably Juve’s best player on the night, Paulo Dybala. The revitalised Italians were then able to score a second goal through Stefano Sturaro in the 76th minute to complete a remarkable comeback.
Nevertheless, despite a big comeback from Juventus, the Bavarians are still seen as favourites to progress to the next round since Allegri’s team will have to defeat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on the 16th of March, where they have only lost once this season.
During last weeks fixtures, Juventus progressed to the Coppa Italia final, beating Inter Milan on penalties. However the team struggled with Allegri resting a number of his starting eleven. The biggest issue came in defense were the youngster Daniele Rugani, filling in for the injured Giorgio Chiellini, was unable to contain Inter’s attacking players.
However, despite the bad performance against Inter, Rugani recovered in the match against Sassuolo at the weekend and produced a much more assured defensive performance.
Nevertheless, the Juventus defense, which is renowned as the strongest area of the team, is now facing various injuries to important players, such as Martin Caceres and the aforementioned Chiellini. The former due to an achilles injury which will keep him out for the rest of the season whilst the latter is struggling with recurring pains to his right calf muscle. The Italian defender is now training alone in order to be fit to play against Bayern Munich.
On the other hand, Allegri can be very satisfied by two other pillars of Juventus’ and Italy’s defensive department: Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon. The former is enjoying an impressive rejuvenation, he has produced some outstanding performances this season and the 34 year old even scored his second goal in four years with the club against Atalanta. He represents a consistent force in the team.
Even the Italy and Juventus captain Buffon, does not seem to be affected by age. In fact the 38 year old is trying to establish a new record as he’s yet to concede in 926 minutes of football and counting. Which is the second best record ever in Serie A, and the best since the championship has had the 3 point format. If the goalkeeper is able to resist for four minutes in the next Serie A match, he will have beaten the record set by Sebastian Rossi in 1994.
If Chiellini can recover from his injury Juventus will play the usual starting eleven in the 3-5-2 formation against Bayern Munich, after the 4-4-2 strategy failed to convince in the first leg. In addition, the match against Sassuolo was useful for Allegri as he was able to test the formation with a number of variations among his playing staff. The defense will most likely be formed by Chiellini (unless he is still injured in which case Rugani will come in), Bonucci and Barzagli while the midfield will be led by Marchisio, accompanied by Khedira and Pogba, meanwhile, the left wing will be occupied by Evra and the right one should be occupied by Lichtsteiner. Then Allegri will probably deploy the former Bayern Munich striker Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala up front.
Juventus will need a great performance to defeat Bayern. They will have to pay attention to the incursions of Muller and Robben who in the first leg represented the biggest issues to Juventus. In addition, Allegri’s team has to set up a defiant defense led by Bonucci and not play too deep in the first half as Bayern excel at breaking down the opponent’s defensive line.