Group A will climax with one super-power crashing out of the competition, and both the Bianconeri and FCB will be playing to ensure that it is not them...
Kick-Off: Tuesday, December 8, 2009. 20:45 CET
Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Big Game Performers
The knock-out phase of the Champions League has come early for Juventus and Bayern Munich. Two of European club football’s most recognisable names meet on Tuesday, but one will be eliminated from the competition by the end of the evening.
Juventus certainly hold a position of strength going into the group stage’s concluding round of fixtures. The Serie A side boast home advantage for the crunch game and also hold a one point advantage in the Group A standings, meaning that they have the safety net of a draw from which to protect them from elimination.
Nevertheless, Ciro Ferrara’s troops will be wary – they have not had a particularly smooth time of it lately. An indifferent series of results domestically had allowed reigning Italian champions Inter to establish a solid grip on the Serie A table, but the Old Lady’s fine 2-1 success over their great rivals on Saturday evening will have done much to restore confidence in the Turin side’s ranks ahead of this key fixture.
Europe has not proven to be an especially happy hunting ground for Juve this term either, with their only victories coming in the form of a brace of 1-0 successes over minnows Maccabi Haifa. Just as they exploded into life in the Derby d’Italia at the weekend, Ferrara will hope his side have reserved their best for this decisive encounter.
With It All To Do
While Juventus have been worming their way back into the Serie A title race, Bayern Munich have been doing their utmost to do likewise in the Bundesliga. A measly five wins in their opening 13 matches had left Louis van Gaal’s side off the pace in Germany’s top flight, but back-to-back triumphs over Hannover and Borussia Moenchengladbach have lifted them to fourth.
FCB will be hoping for a similarly positive recovery in the Champions League. Their prospects in the competition have been hanging by a thread since they slipped to an utterly miserable 2-0 defeat by Bordeaux in Matchday 4.
Indeed, the German titans could have been eliminated a fortnight ago, but Juventus failed to defeat the French champions away from home, while Van Gaal’s men held their nerve to claim a highly uncertain 1-0 success against Maccabi Haifa at the Allianz Arena.
Van Gaal is still not an entirely happy coach, despite the club’s last two victories. Commenting after the weekend’s 2-1 win over Moenchengladbach the abrasive Dutch coach said, “I'm very happy but it was very hard work; the luckier team won. Gladbach were the better team in the first half and created many chances. Hans-Joerg Butt played well. We had trouble with the two who played in behind. We solved that with a tactical change in the second half and played much better.”
Supporters of FC Hollywood will hope that their side’s luck holds in Turin.
WON 2-1 (h) Inter (Serie A, December 5)
LOST 2-0 (a) Cagliari (Serie A, November 29)
LOST 2-0 (a) Girondins de Bordeaux (Champions League, November 25)
WON 1-0 (h) Udinese (Serie A, November 22)
WON 5-2 (a) Atalanta (Serie A, November 7)
WON 2-1 (h) Borussia Moenchengladbach (Bundesliga, December 4)
WON 3-0 (a) Hannover (Bundesliga, November 29)
WON 1-0 (h) Maccabi Haifa (Champions League, November 25)
DREW 1-1 (h) Bayer Leverkusen (Bundesliga, November 22)
DREW 1-1 (h) Schalke (Bundesliga, November 7)
Following their terrific weekend win, coach Ciro Ferrara is unlikely to make sweeping changes to his unit. The Old Lady were strong all over the field against the Nerazzurri and this won’t be risked by a major shake-up of personnel.
Availability-wise, Ferrara will be happy with the state of play. Vincenzo Iaquinta is the only player to be definitely sidelined, while David Trezeguet was on the bench at the weekend following a calf problem.
Felipe Melo shook off a sore throat to play at the weekend, and scored the opening goal. He was later dismissed, but the ensuing suspension will, of course, apply only to domestic fixtures.
Reports suggest that Giorgio Chiellini could miss out due to a calf problem.
Probable Starting XI: Buffon; Caceres, Cannavaro, Legrottaglie, Grosso; Sissoko, Melo, Marchisio; Diego; Del Piero, Amauri
There will be no place in the squad for French winger Franck Ribery, who is again missing because of a tendon problem.
Otherwise there is better news for Van Gaal, who will likely be able to boast Daniel Van Buyten in his team. There had been fears that the Belgian had suffered a fracture to his face, but scans have since shown that this is not the case.
In addition, Hamit Altintop resumed training with the squad on Saturday, though it seems unlikely he will be available on Tuesday.
Arjen Robben has declared himself fit to start.
Probable Starting XI: Butt; Lahm, Van Buyten, Badstuber, Pranjic; Tymoschuk, Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger; Mueller, Klose, Robben
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Giorgio Chiellini was the outstanding member of Juve's defence against Inter, so if he does indeed miss out then Fabio Cannavaro's level will have to rise a notch. At some stage during this game it must be anticipated that FCB will adopt an offensive approach, so it is vital that Gianluigi Buffon's goal is well protected. With a wealth of experience, Cannavaro is a veteran of such delicate situations.
If FCB are to progress, they know that they will need to score at least one goal. With Franck Ribery, their playmaker-in-chief, missing, Luis van Gaal will look to countryman Arjen Robben to inspire his side. The former Real Madrid man was rested up on the bench for the best part of an hour at the weekend, so the injury-prone winger should be fresh for Tuesday’s challenge.
Fuelled by their success of the weekend, Juventus will be in buoyant mood approaching this fixture. There can be little doubt that Bayern are edging in the right direction, but their form does not suggest that they are capable of winning away in Turin. Expect the first half of this encounter to be a tight affair, but anything could happen in the closing stages. Nevertheless, the Bianconeri have to be strongly favoured to progress.
Juventus 2-1 Bayern Munich
Robin Bairner, Goal.com