There will be echoes of 1997 Champions League final when Juventus welcome Borussia Dortmund for the first leg of round of 16 clash in the Champions League. 1997 saw the perennial underdogs overturn the best club side to become the Champions of Europe.
Not many Juventus fan will remember the 1997 final fondly as many decisions went against the Italian side as Dortmund trumped Juventus for the Champions League glory. 18 years have passed by and in between both the clubs have seen their shares of rise and fall.
For me this is the most intriguing tie of the 1st knock round in Champions League this season. You cannot point at either of the side and tag them favourite. It is very tight and the game is expected to be a battle of tactics and team efforts as the Serie A leaders take on the Bundesliga strugglers.
Tactical Preview, Possible Lineups, Key Battles and Prediction
If ever Juventus had the chance to progress deep in the Champions League this must be their time. Juventus pose an extremely talented squad with players capable of turning games on their head. Juventus must sort out their defense, which crumbles fairly easily when pressed hard by the opponents.
Juventus play in Serie A where often the tempo is not he greatest. Juventus must switch their playing style as Dortmund are one of the best sides when it comes to pressing and playing on the break with lightning speed. Juventus must play at their strengths and not worry about how Dortmund will play.
Juventus like to operate with a 4-3-1-2 formation with the immensely talented quadruple of midfield maestros in Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio operating for Max Alligri. Juve manager must not hold either of them on the bench and start with all of them in the playing 11 as the four complement each other’s style of play brilliantly.
Pirlo and Pogba like to hold the ball deep and supply it to the wingers and full-backs. Vidal loves to make penetrating runs in the opponent’s box while Marchisio acts as the link between the strikers and midfield. At times Marchisio drifts inside to make space for Pogba to use his power and pace to attack the opposition.
Juventus have Carlos Tevez, one of the most lethal finishers in the game. Tevez’s partnership with Llorente suits him really well. Tevez loves to feed on the knockdowns and second balls. Tevez loves to run in the channel and manufacture his shots. Tevez is ably supported by Pogba and Vidal’s deep runs from the midfield.
Probable Lineup: Juventus (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Stephan Lichtsteiner; Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio; Arturo Vidal; Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente
This team has the speed to burn a football pitch. Marco Reus, Emerick Aubemeyang, Blaszczykowski and Gundogan have the ability to run pass their opposition with minimum of fuss. Dortmund like to operate with a free flowing 4-2-3-1 formation where attack revolves around Maco Reus.
Reus has recently signed a new contract and since then has scored in both the games and no wonder Dortmund have won both of them. Reus takes up the position on left of the three behind the striker and from there he takes over the play for Dortmund. Reus drifts inside to release through balls to the striker, he takes shots at the goal, he switches on the right to test the other full back as well.
Reus’ skill is well matched by Aubemeyang’s pace and finish. Despite a flowing front play Dortmund’s defense is a cause of concern for Jurgen Klopp. Dortmund have Bender sitting in the midfield and Hummels along with Subotic operating in central defense yet Dortmund are leaking goals this season which sees them ranked 12th in the Bundesliga. Klopp needs to cut out the defensive fragility if the German side are to get the better of Juve playing in Turin.
Probable Lineup: Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller; Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszczek; Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan; Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jakub Blaszczykoski; Pierre-Emerick Aubemayeng
Marco Reus vs Stephen Lichtsteiner – Reus is Dortmund’s best player by a million mile. Juventus must stop Reus from dictating the play to have any chance at getting something from this game. Fortunately, Juventus do have one of the finest right backs at the moment in Lichtsteiner. The Swiss International will have to keep a close eye on German starlet or else he will create havoc and create space for the likes of Aubemeyang and Blaszczykoski to run at Juve’s defense. Winner of this battle might decide the outcome of this game for his side.
Andrea Pirlo vs Ilkay Gundogan – Old master against a young student, that is how this battle looks like but in this case the young student must not be phased by the challenge in front of him and rather try and outplay one of the best midfield players of this generation. Pirlo is a genius over the ball. Gundogan must stop or at least minimise the effect Pirlo has when he receives the ball. Gundogan must be ready to get a booking early on if needed just to let Pirlo know that he is in for a battle. If Pirlo dictates the play, Dortmund can forget about getting anything from the game.
Carlos Tevez vs Neven Subotic – I have picked Subotic against Tevez simply because, Hummels will be occupied with Llorente’s threat in the air. Hummels is a better header of the ball thus it leaves Subotic with a little matter of marking Carlos Tevez (one of the best strikers in Europe). Tevez can make any defender look foolish with his stop and go movements. Subotic must watch out for the trickery of Tevez and must not give away easy chances to shoot to the Argentine.
I have a funny felling that, this game will leak goals. Both team have fancied attacks but shaky defense. I see this game end in a 2-2 draw. Result on the night might sound terrible for Juventus but who is to say that the return leg in Germany will not have away goals for the travelling side that day.
I am going for a 2-2 draw on the night with Reus and Tevez shining the brightest for their sides.