Juventus vs. Barcelona: A clash of defense and offense in Turin
Last five games
A repeat of 2014/15 Champions League final sees the Spanish champions Barcelona traveling to Turin to take on the Italian champions Juventus. Although on paper this looks like a mouthwatering clash that can go either way, recent forms suggest Juve are the clear favorites to get an all important first leg win at home.
The Italians are cruising though Serie A yet again, as they look ahead to lift a sixth successive Scudetto this season with six points lead over the second place Roma. The team looks very well balanced with no big weaknesses in any position. Although defense seems to be Juve’s biggest asset, and has been for a long time, their offense is just as lethal as ever.
Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain has formed an incredible partnership up top, with up to 41 goals this season between the two Argentines, while Mario Mandzukic has done surprisingly well in his new left-wing position. Juan Cuadrado has also forgotten about the nightmares from west London and when all these four are on the pitch at the same time, it can be a scary sight for any club out there.
Meanwhile the Catalans are having a roller-coaster season under the departing Luis Enrique. They have endured some big losses where they were both outplayed and outsmarted — such as a 4-0 loss to PSG, a recent 2-0 loss to Malaga, and a 2-1 loss to nine-man Athletic Bilbao. However, games like a 6-1 win over PSG or a 3-0 win over Sevilla also prove that once Barcelona actually click, there is nobody capable of stopping them.
The problem is it’s hard to predict which team will show up on Tuesday night in Turin, and with Sergio Busquets suspended, they will find it hard to dominate an explosive Juve side.
Although Juve have some exciting attacking players, Max Allegri will likely take a conservative approach and field a “defense first” style of football. That can lead to a key battle between MSN and Juve’s backline. Barca’s away form this season hasn’t been convincing at all and if they commit too many numbers forward, the Italians will have a field day with their fast-paced counter attacks. It’s hard to see the visiting side getting anything other than an away goal out of this match.
Prediction - Juventus 2-1 Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund vs AS Monaco: Two sides with Europe’s most promising talents
Last five games
Although we have two mouthwatering clashes in the quarterfinals where Europe’s elites collide with each other, this matchup could actually end up as the most entertaining tie. Both sides play a very similar attacking brand of football, and with many young talents on the display, fireworks are expected to go off on Tuesday night at Signal Iduna Park.
Dortmund have a strong advantage coming into this game, as they have a very impressive record of being undefeated at home in last two years. Even Real Madrid and Bayern Munich couldn’t come out as winners there, therefore it is extremely unlikely to see Monaco do so. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is making a case to be considered for one of the best strikers in the world with 32 goals in 36 games this season.
However, as good as he is with his incredible speed and dazzling dribbles, the French-born Gabonese has also missed tons of chances in front of goal. The same can also be said about Ousmane Dembélé, a promising young talent who had a night to forget at Munich this past weekend.
Meanwhile Monaco have stunned everyone in Europe this season with their crop of gifted young footballers. They have eased past the likes of Villarreal, Tottenham Hotspur, and battled hard to knock out Manchester City over the two legs. They are also on top of Ligue One with three points advantage over PSG and have a possibility of achieving a treble this season.
That said, as good as youngsters like Bernardo Silva, Tiemoué Bakayoko, and Kylian Mbappé are, their mentality can also be questioned. They seem to completely drop off when being outplayed, as evidenced by a 4-1 loss to PSG, a 4-0 loss to Nice, and a 3-1 loss to Lyon. This can be a worrying sign for Leonardo Jardim, when his team has to battle not only the Dortmund players but their incredible fans as well.
As mentioned before, both clubs share a similar identity and will look to outscore each other on the pitch. Dortmund have been hit hard with injuries this season and the key difference makers like Shinji Kagawa, Andre Schurrle, Julian Weigl, and Lukas Piszczek are all doubtful to feature. Marco Reus, however, is set to return as the playmaker completed a training session on Sunday while Mario Gotze is ruled out until the end of the season with an illness.
The visitors won’t have a full squad either, with Babayoko out though suspension while Djibril Sidibe was recently hospitalized with appendicitis. Even with all these factors surrounding, the home side should have enough quality to see through the game in a high scoring affair.
Prediction: Dortmund 3-2 Monaco