Alex Mott looks at the tactical and individual battles that could decide Juve’s Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich.
In a group of mouth-watering fixtures, this is perhaps the stand-out clash. Two domestic and European giants going head-to-head in a bid for continental glory – an unstoppable force and an immovable object curtailing towards one another.
Bayern Munich versus Juventus in the quarter-finals of the Champions League is a tie to get the heart racing and a match that might bring back some painful memories for fans of the Bianconeri.
The last time Juve lost in Europe’s premier club competition it was to the Bavarian giants – back in December 2009. That 4-1 defeat contributed greatly to Ciro Ferrara losing his job in Piedmont, and only four members of the squad that night survive in Antonio Conte’s current incarnation.
Gianluigi Buffon, Martin Caceres, Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco were all on the receiving end of a drubbing that night, and will be hoping to banish the ghosts of the past when they visit the Allianz Arena for the first leg on April 2.
The recent past may bring up bad memories for the Turin giants, but in the here and now it seems the Bundesliga leaders are the ones worrying, as midfielder Toni Kroos admitted to UEFA. “Juventus have eliminated Chelsea, the winners of the last Champions League,” he said. “So I think, for us, they are the hardest team to face after Barcelona. To win we have to give our best and not concede a goal at home – that will be crucial.”
The young Germany international will be at the heart of a midfield that includes Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger – and it is that key battleground that could well decide the outcome of this last eight clash.
Bayern’s central trio will come into direct confrontation with the Old Lady’s triumvirate of Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, with both staking a claim for the best midfield in Europe this season.
It is Kroos who could have the biggest bearing on the match. Sitting in the pocket where Pirlo likes to control the game – the two of them will be vying for the same space and the same time on the ball. Master and apprentice fighting to the death. Both technical wizards with an eye for an assists – a slight advantage in one’s favour and it will potentially see the other team out of the competition.
Of course, Kroos and Pirlo could cancel each other out of the game, and that’s where the Bianconeri’s flying wing-backs have the power to win it for their team – and lose it in the same breath.
Juve’s 3-5-2 formation has very obvious attacking advantages against Bayern Munich’s orthodox 4-2-3-1, but even the slightest ill-discipline in defensive responsibilities and the German team’s wingers have the required quality to punish the smallest mistake. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben may have been plagued by injuries and inconsistent form in the past, but with Stephan Lichtsteiner and probably Kwadwo Asamoah keen to push forward and create width, it could see the Dutch and French flyers with space and time to find one of the continent’s most in-form strikers – Mario Mandzukic.
It’s a fascinating tie contested between the top teams in Serie A and the Bundesliga. Let’s enjoy it for what it is – two juggernauts fighting for a place amongst the best four teams in Europe.