Manchester United are back in action tonight as they take on their old rival Juventus in Turin. Having been overturned by the Italians 1-0 at Old Trafford, United will be keen to leave the Allianz Stadium with a positive result. Of course, Mourinho’s men have taken just four points from a possible nine so far; hardly the form of a contender for the trophy. Consequently, United’s passage to the knockout phase is under threat and defeat tonight could see the Reds drop to third place in Group H. There are no such problems for The Old Lady and they will be eager to maintain their 100% record, although they are safe in the knowledge that a point will ensure their progress to the knockout stage.
Earlier today, I spoke to passionate Juventus fan, and Italian football enthusiast, Jonathan Corbett, who updated me on the preparation of Juventus and what United can expect tonight. In addition, he discusses the return to form of Anthony Martial, the importance of Paul Pogba, as well as giving his score prediction.
The Old Lady
Juventus have dominated domestically for years now, with them being Serie A title winners for the last 7 seasons. However, ask any Juventus fan and they will tell you that European success is something that Juventus have longed for; for many years. The Old Lady has come agonisingly close to Champions League triumph recently, making it to the final in two out of the last four years. Juve haven’t tasted European victory since 1996, where they beat Ajax in the final. Although, the fans truly believe that the board have now upped their game this year and are really going for it. They have thrown huge amounts of cash into the transfer kitty and made the huge acquisition of super star Cristiano Ronaldo; which is a real statement. He has already settled well in Italy and seems to be really enjoying his football, scoring 7 goals and making 6 assists in the league.
Players To Watch
With Cristiano Ronaldo being the main focus by fans and media alike since his move to Turin, other players could be argued to have gone unnoticed. One player that has really stepped up after a slow start is Paulo Dybala. Having not started games at the start of the season with Mandzukic being preferred to play alongside Ronaldo, many felt that Dybala would suffer just like he did in the World Cup, as it was thought he could not be in the same team as Lionel Messi because of their similarities. Dybala, however, took his opportunity in Europe to show what he can do when Ronaldo was suspended after receiving a red card against Valencia in the Champions League. Dybala single handedly brushed Swiss side Young Boys aside scoring a hat-trick and this certainly showed that he wasn’t short of confidence and was ready to seize any opportunity he could get, to prove he should be in that first team. Manchester United fans have been hopeful that Dybala would have followed Paul Pogba to Old Trafford in the summer but his only visit to the stadium was to score against them and grab all 3 points in their first meeting in the group stage! With Juventus just needing 1 point to qualify for the last 16, and the fact that many players are out with injury, I suspect a cautious approach for tonight’s game. Even with the moderate form of Manchester United, they can never be written off as Juventus well know, who can forget that 3-2 loss to United in Turin with Roy Keane pulling the strings?
Taking into account that Manchester United need a result here, and that Juventus need a point to progress, I expect Mourinho to scrap his usual defensive minded tactic and actually go for this. Juventus may not be as comfortable with this as judging by recent games domestically where they have had looked shaky under pressure; though they have still managed to come away with 3 points. I feel facing a stronger opposition with our current injury situation, could really be a test for the Italians, even if we have home advantage. We need to be wary of Antony Martial as he has really come into his own and is looking to prove himself on the European stage. In addition, Paul Pogba has his critics but when he was at Juve he was adored, and he is a player that could be a match winner. The Juventus players are more than aware of this, so I expect him to not be given much space in midfield. The obvious players that United should fear are Ronaldo and Dybala, but do not be surprised to see Juan Cuadrado get on the score sheet as he has been immense in recent Champions League campaigns.
Juventus manager Max Allegri gave a brutally honest interview as always in the buildup to tonight’s game:
“Mandzukic’s ankle is fine. I didn’t put him on the bench on Sunday, as I was concerned that he’d feel pain going up the steps… I made a joke, but Mandzukic is a very important player for us and having him at our disposal is important. He has problems every year, it was his elbow last time, so in these situations it’s better to give him time to fully recover.
“It’s the same with Bernardeschi, as keeping him on the bench when he’s not 100 per cent, having the temptation to play him and then lose him for other games is pointless. It’s better to wait and have him at 100 per cent against Milan.
“As for the others, I read the papers today suggesting we had dead players. I looked around on the training ground and couldn’t find the corpses.
“I only have two out, really, and I hope to have Bernardeschi back against Milan. As for the others, Mandzukic and Sami Khedira are available.
“We must be careful, because we need a better performance than the one we had in Manchester, because they can be dangerous at any moment. We have to keep great focus, because there is a lot at stake.
Allegri knows that they need to improve on recent performances; that is clear. Minus a couple of players, he has a number of strong options which should be more than enough tonight. I am hoping to see an improvement.
The Juventus line-up in my opinion should be as follows:
4-3-3, Szczesny; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Pjanic, Khedira, Bentancur; Cuadrado, Dybala, Ronaldo
The game itself
This game will be tight just like at Old Trafford, but I do think we will see a better performance from Manchester United. However, I think Juventus just have that class to get the 3 points and these are the type of games that Allegri will expect us to win if we are to get that elusive Champions League trophy this season. I think Juventus will just edge it and there will be goals so I’m going for 3-2 to the home side with Cuadrado to get on the score sheet.