Juventus v Bayern Munich
Wednesday February 24, 6:45am
Of all the times for Juventus to surrender their 13-match winning streak across all competitions, right before arguably their toughest fixture of the campaign so far against Bayern Munich probably wasn’t the most opportune.
However, it was a draw rather than a loss, meaning that they still haven’t suffered a domestic defeat since late October, and it occurred on the road against Bologna, ensuring that they still have an 11-game home victory sequence to defend.
The Old Lady will be without Martin Caceres, Kwadwo Asamoah and possibly Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro and former Bayern Munich forward Mario Mandzukic too, but all their other heavy hitters such as Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Paul Pogba and Paulo Dybala are expected to be available.
Pep Guardiola has faced accusations in Germany of a diminishing focus on Bayern Munich since the announcement that he will move to Manchester City this summer. If this is the case though, it hasn’t really been reflected in the results, with three wins and a draw obtained in four outings since.
Bayern are eight points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with 12 encounters remaining and through to the DFB Pokal semi-finals, yet they have already lifted both of those trophies under the Catalan. The Champions League is the big omission, and Guardiola will know that if he doesn’t deliver it at the third and final attempt, it will permanently detract from everything else he has achieved in Bavaria.
In other words, the pressure is very much on, and it therefore isn’t ideal that they travel to Turin short of three centre backs, with Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Holger Badstuber sidelined.
UEFA rules mean that Kingsley Coman, who is on loan from Juventus, is free to participate. The French teenager and perceived Franck Ribery heir has started 11 of their last 13 league contests.
Juventus may be the outsiders at 3.15 but, even if you subscribe to the theory that Bayern have a slightly superior team, home advantage has the potential to not only nullify that but overpower it.
Since the 2004/05 season, the Bianconeri have played 36 Champions League games in front of their fans and have been beaten just twice. Admittedly, both of those losses were inflicted by the German champions – in the 2009/10 group stage and 2012/13 quarter-finals – though their current squad has more quality and European knowhow than they possessed then.
They proved their class and fearlessness by winning all three knockout legs as hosts en route to last year’s final, overcoming Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid, and have since added Europa League holders Sevilla and Premier League powerhouses Manchester City to their long list of victims.
Bayern by contrast didn’t triumph abroad in the knockout phase last term, being held by Shakhtar and defeated by Porto and Barcelona, giving up three goals to each of the latter pair. They also have nothing to show for their previous three continental trips to clubs from Europe’s top four leagues (Man City, Barcelona and Arsenal).
Despite their domestic dominance, Guardiola’s men have dropped points in three of their most recent seven league away days.
Juventus Win to Nil
If you fancy being really bold, you can find odds of 4.60 on Juventus not simply beating Bayern but doing so without conceding.
Sure, the five-time Champions League winners have struck an obscene 30 times in their last six competition clashes at the Allianz Arena, yet that figure drops fivefold to six in six overseas, and they have fired blanks in half of those, including two knockout matches in three.
Juventus have shut out five of their past seven European guests – including each of the three this season – and the sole visiting player to fire in their last five home Champions League games was Cristiano Ronaldo.