Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala could start against Tottenham Hotspur, but Juventus lose Mario Mandzukic.
Words: Elio Salerno
The Juventus injury list appears to be reducing just in time for the business end of the season, with Tuesday morning’s training session at Vinovo seeing close to a full complement of players taking part.
However, Wednesday’s huge Champions League second leg against Spurs may well have come a little too soon for one or two of the Bianconeri’s returning stars.
Despite making an appearance in the morning session, Mandzukic has not travelled with the squad. The loss of their Croatian warrior will be a blow, but the presence of Higuain back with the squad will be a huge boost.
Max Allegri has been forced to dig deep into his squad in recent weeks with injuries severely hampering his options, forcing him to be at his resourceful best. Despite the importance of their Serie A fixture against Lazio at the weekend, Mister Allegri changed formation in order to rest players for the trip to Wembley.
Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro and Douglas Costa all started from the bench with the Champions League in mind. Paulo Dybala completed his first 90 minutes after an injury lay-off and, despite fatiguing during the latter stages, he produced a moment of class in stoppage time to give his side an invaluable three points.
Barring any last-minute surprises Juventus will return to a back four for this game after using a 3-5-2 in Rome on Saturday. Gianluigi Buffon is set to make his 123rd Champions League appearance and will hope to record his 50th clean sheet in the competition.
Alex Sandro will be reinstated at left back, with the unmistakeable Giorgio Chiellini returning to take up his usual spot at centre back alongside the commanding Medhi Benatia. Mattia De Sciglio was the preferred choice at right-back for the first leg but a subsequent injury has seen him miss the last couple of weeks.
The Italian defender is travelling with the squad, but it is unlikely he will play from the start, having only returned to training in the last few days. The experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner has been playing in De Sciglio’s absence and the Swiss right-back is set to get the nod for this one too.
After a disastrous show from Juve’s two-man midfield in Turin, the availability of Blaise Matuidi for the game in London will see Allegri deploy his preferred three-man midfield. The Pianist Miralem Pjanic will take centre stage in midfield, with German international taking up his regular role on the right.
With attacking trio Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado and Italian international Federico Bernardeschi all missing, the Juventus front line picks itself. The big news is without doubt the return of Argentine duo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. Fans of La Madama will have been delighted to see their Number 10 score on his return to the team at the weekend and will have been further lifted when hearing that their “HD” attack is set to be re-united.
Higuain has not played since limping off against Torino a little over two weeks ago, but he may well be set to return to the starting line-up alongside South American counterparts Dybala and Douglas Costa.
It was a mixed bag for the Juve attack during the first 90 minutes, but they did have success against the Spurs defence. With Dybala adding a touch of magic this time around, they will be hoping to conjure up something special in order to progress to the next round.
Juventus (probable): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala, Douglas Costa; Higuain
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