By Piero Fiorino & Richard Bowman
It is a rematch of the 1984 European Cup Winner’s Final, a result that saw Juventus claim victory over Porto 2-1, however, now almost 33 years later these two teams meet again for a chance to advance to the Quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. Despite some hurdles it has been a great start to the 2016-2017 campaign for Juventus, they currently sit atop of the Serie A table and also topped their Champions League group. Juventus have gotten what they’ve needed out of their new additions this campaign, Gonzalo Higuain has been a consistent threat and already has 18 goals in all competitions, he has provided Juventus with that much-needed punch up top. Miralem Pjanic is still finding his way with Juventus, however, that hasn’t stopped him from getting his name on the stat sheet. Pjanic already has 6 goals and 7 assists in all competitions, he has provided Juventus with some nice playmaking and has been a steady presence there as well.
Juventus Manager Massimiliano Allegri has recently done away with the 3-5-2 formation, a staple of Juventus since the Antonio Conte days. Allegri has chosen a 4-2-3-1 for now and while Juventus will most likely go back to the 3-5-2 at some point even if it’s not long-term, this is an interesting storyline for Juventus heading into Champions League. In 2015, Allegri switched to a 4-1-3-2 for Champions League and it paid dividends for Juventus as they got the final, despite losing, it was positive for Juventus. Look for Allegri to fully showcase both the 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1 in the knockout stages of Champions League.
Most likely Juventus 3-5-2 CL Formation:
Most likely Juventus 4-2-3-1 CL Formation:
Most likely Juventus 4-3-1-2 CL Formation:
Juventus Champions League Squad for the Knockout stage:
Despite bringing in a lot of talent and weakening their biggest rivals in Italy, many believed it would take Juventus some time to get acclimated with all the changes but here we are and while it hasn’t been perfect, there’s a great reason for fellow Juventini to be positive about Juventus’ chances in Champions League.
Which Juventus player will be key for Juventus if they want to advance to the Quarterfinals and why?
Piero Fiorino: Per usual, it’s not a single player that will have to step up for the ol’ black and white. While it is indeed a team sport, it’s the esteemed Italian back line that will have to step up if Juve hopes to advance.
Richard Bowman: This is really a question that could come down to the formation, however, I’ll go ahead and say, Paulo Dybala. With Gonzalo Higuain in form, Juventus should be able to do a number on Porto if they can catch the Portuguese based team out of position after they make a run. As of now, Dybala is playing as more of a second striker, which could lead to him making some significant plays if given the opportunity.
Should Allegri stick with the 4-2-3-1, revert back to either the Juventus 3-5-2 or the 4-3-1-2 that helped them get to the 2015 final?
Piero Fiorino: while mixing it up sounds good in theory, we have no idea how the players will adjust to their rotating roles. The 4-2-3-1 should work well against a potent Porto attack.
Richard Bowman: A 4-3-1-2 might be the best, especially with the additions of Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain if Juventus can get a win in the first leg with either the more attacking oriented 4-3-1-2 or 4-2-3-1 then we could see the 3-5-2 brought back to help protect the lead.
Surprise player that could impact this series for Juventus against Porto?
Piero Fiorino: Claudio Marchisio. While he only has 2 assists on the season, most of his work can’t be counted on the stat sheet. Hustle plays and pass breakups are where he does most of the damage, but I think he’ll have a standout game with 1 goal and 1 assist.
Richard Bowman: Juan Cuadrado. Like we saw against Inter, Cuadrado can be a difference maker when the going gets tough, not only did he score a great goal but he did it in a tight game and really broke Inter with the goal. Porto can be sneaky good so if Juventus is having some trouble look for Cuadrado to score a timely goal.
Who will have the bigger impact between Higuain and Pjanic, and why?
Piero Fiorino: Gonzalo Higuain. Higuain has been absolutely dominating this season, as he clocks in with a hefty 18 goals; 13 more than our next highest goal scorer. Porto’s defense is average at best and with an aging Iker Casillas, I don’t see why Higuain wouldn’t continue to dominate.
Richard Bowman: Miralem Pjanic. It should really be both but I’ll play devils advocate, here and say Pjanic. Juventus brought in Pjanic so they could solidify the midfield after it had been purged these past few summers. Pjanic is someone who can playmake while controlling the tempo of the game and with both Dybala and Higuain up top, he should be orchestrating Juventus’ attack in the two games.
Prediction and score for both legs?
Piero Fiorino: As said, Porto’s defense is average at best. Juventus has a lot of goal scorers outside of Higuain, so combine that with the passing abilities of Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, and Juan Cuadrado and you got a well oiled Juve machine that shouldn’t have a problem ripping through Porto.
First Leg: 3-1
Second Leg: 3-0
Final: 6-1, Juventus advances
Richard Bowman: Juventus should advance fairly easily here but they’re an Italian team so while they’re great, they tend to make things interesting when it’s not needed. Look for Juventus to win the first leg fairly easily, however, look for Porto to score early in Turin and put the pressure on Juve until a late goal by either Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala or Gonzalo Higuain puts it away.
First Leg(Away): 2-0
Second Leg(Home): 1-1
Final: 3-1, Juventus
This will most likely be the last time we see Buffon vs Casillas. Thoughts on both all-time great Goalkeepers and how they’ve impacted the game?
Piero Fiorino: Iker Casillas, while getting up there in age, much like Buffon, is one of the best goalkeepers of all-time. Having won the CL 3 times with Real Madrid, whatever he does with Porto will just add to his already fantastic legacy. Buffon vs. Casillas is always a great matchup, so I don’t see why that won’t continue. May the saga end in a glorious fashion.
Richard Bowman: They’re two legends, one is still playing at high level whereas the other has fallen off somewhat but is still quality. Outside of national teams, Iker Casillas has only gone against Gigi Buffon in Champions League twice and both times it ended in an aggregate in favor of Juventus, however, it should be a great match-up between two of the best ever.
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