Coming off the back of a disappointing match-up against Malaga, a dispirited Barcelona are looking beatable in the Champions League. Here’s how the Serie A leaders can do it
Juventus are facing Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals, in a rerun of the 2015 final, dominated and won by the Blaugrana. Juve have grown since that game and Barcelona have seem to be in a steady decline, hidden by nights like that against Paris Saint-Germain in the Camp Nou in the last round. But the Bianconeri can do it: here’s how.
1) Win the key duels
Firstly, Juventus will have to take on the one-on-ones and win them. When players such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez attack their direct opponent, it becomes difficult for the defenders to resist, even if there’s a team mate there to help. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andre Barzagli will have to keep their concentration at the top level and give everything physically in order to win the duels against Barca’s deadly trio and concede the least possible chances.
2) Defend deep
A good way to deny space to Barcelona is to wait for them deep in the opposition defensive area. Accept their dominance instead of pressing high, accept their presence in your own half and let them come close to Gianluigi Buffon. In doing so, Barcelona will have less space in which to play and will be unable to cut in behind the defenders, Juve being able to double the marking and give less chances to shoot on target. The downside will be that the Bianconeri will have to be as quick as possible on the counter to create their own chances.
3) Pressure in midfield
On top of deep and precise defending, Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Miralem Pjanic will need a perfect game defensively to give no time to think to Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic. In the first leg, the Blaugrana will be without Sergio Busquets, and Juve will need to make the most of this. All three of the Bianconeri midfielders have the ability to press the opponents and transition quickly into attack. To do it on the night will be key.
4) Buffon’s added value
If Juve’s defenders struggle, Buffon will have to be at his best. Inevitably, even on their best night, the Bianconeri will give chances to a trio like that of Barcelona, and that’s when the captain’s quality needs to come into force and be decisive.
5) Take their chances
We’ve spoken a lot about Juve’s defence, but the Bianconeri have two absolute stars up front. Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have little to envy over Barcelona’s strikers, and combined form one of the most complete couples in Europe. Both need to show they are worthy of the Champions League and to do so will have to take their chances when Juve does create them. To miss easy goals would be absolutely devastating.