Champions League: Juventus vs Barcelona preview: team news, key battles, prediction and more

Ben Davies
90Min

It's crunch time in the Champions League. All the best teams around Europe are starting to dream of the final in Cardiff. But first, they have to get through the quarter finals.

Juventus host Barcelona in Turin on Tuesday night, and the home side will be in high spirits as they come to the close of an excellent season. Juve are six points clear at the top of Serie A with seven games to go, but a Champions League trophy would make for the perfect campaign. Coming into this first leg without losing at home in a Champions League game for 21 matches, they will definitely feel confident ahead of the encounter.

Barcelona, meanwhile, are in disarray. Fluctuating form has cast doubt over the Spanish Champions' League credentials, let alone their chances of Champions League glory. There arguable hasn't been a better time to play them in the last decade, and without Sergio Busquets, Barcelona are going to have to put in an enormous display.

Malaga CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga


 

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Juventus - WWWDLW

Juve head into this game having only lost one match in their last six - away to Napoli in the Coppa Italia. With one of the strongest defences in Europe, coupled with two of the best strikers on the planet, the Bianconeri have become a force to be reckoned with. Barca will be their first proper test in this year's competition, and it will be interesting to see how they approach it.

Barcelona - WLWWWL

Barca are a strange team to watch. In some matches, everything clicks perfectly and the Blaugrana run riot - you only have to look at their recent 4-1 win over Granada or 3-0 victory over Sevilla. But sometimes it doesn't; their last game ended in a surprising 2-0 defeat to Malaga. Luis Enrique will be praying that his team are firing on all cylinders against a tough Juventus side on Tuesday.


SSC Napoli v Juventus FC - TIM Cup



Key Battles

Gonzalo Higuain vs Gerard Pique

One of the best strikers on the planet faces one of the best centre halves on Tuesday. Higuain and Pique both excel in the physical side of the game - using their strength and aerial ability to better their opponent.

This match-up has the potential to be brutal, the two could arguably go toe to toe with each other, and in such an important game, both will be looking to gain the edge. Pique is one of the best readers of play in world football, and will look to use that to his advantage, aiming to beat Higuain to the long passes and snuffing out attacks early on.

Conversely, Higuain will look to get the ball into his feet and hold it up for a teammate to run on to, before charging into the box for the return. He'll have to rely on his physical ability to better Pique - which will be a big ask.


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Paulo Dybala vs Javier Mascherano

Filling in for Sergio Busquets is a big enough challenge on its own, even before being tasked with keeping one of the most promising youngsters in Europe quiet. With Dybala filtering the midfield into attack, Mascherano will have to put a stop to any opportunities his compatriot might create.

Though Mascherano can read the game well, and is known to dive in for challenges, he will have to be very aware of the Juventus man's pace; something which he lacks. Dybala will look to abuse that, and the only way the Barca midfielder could combat that is by being smarter, reading Dybala's movements and cutting out his attacks. Otherwise the 23-year-old will run riot.

Juventus FC v AC ChievoVerona - Serie A


 

Dani Alves vs Neymar

Former teammates, and fellow countrymen. These two will have come up against each other in training too many times to count. They'll both know each others' game inside and out, which is what makes this battle so interesting.

This duel will be more of a mental battle than physical. We all know Neymar will can take on Alves, and likewise Alves can easily beat Neymar physically. But whoever wins this will be the player that outsmarts the other, being more unpredictable than their opponent, and ultimately bettering them.

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Team News

Juventus

Mario Mandzukic has returned to full training this week and could well feature in the match-day squad - though it is very unlikely he will start.

The young Moise Kean will miss the tie with an ankle injury; similarly Marko Pjaca is out for the rest of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

Estonia v Croatia - International Friendly


 

Barcelona

Sergio Busquets misses the first leg due to a suspension he picked up in Barcelona's 6-1 triumph over PSG, paving the way for a probable start for Javier Mascherano.

Both Aleix Vidal and Rafinha are long term injuries for Barca - Rafinha, having had surgery in the last week will definitely be out for the rest of the season.


FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - La Liga



Possible Starting XI's

Juventus (4-2-3-1): Buffon, Alves, Barzagli, Chiellini, Sandro, Khedira, Pjanic, Cuadrado, Dybala, Sturaro, Higuain

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen, S. Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Mascherano, Iniesta, Rakitic, Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Predicted Score: Juventus 2-1 Barcelona

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