Juventus v Barcelona: Why Italy’s Old Lady should be seen as favourites

Conor Clancy

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Two European giants meet in Turin for the first leg of their Champions League quarter final meeting on Tuesday, and Juventus should fancy their chances against a fallible Barcelona

Juventus supporters honour their fearsome forwards. Photo: Getty Images.

Despite Barcelona’s ‘super club’ label, particularly in recent years, Juventus go into their Champions League quarter final meeting as the stronger of the two sides.

The Blaugrana pose an obvious threat to Juve with their devastating MSN forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, but the Bianconeri have plenty of strengths themselves, many of which seem to be overlooked in a lot of the game’s build-up.

Because they are Italian, first, and because it’s true, second, Juve are being spoken about as masters of the defensive side of the game. However, many of these comments are going beyond the point of acceptability, and bordering on the lazy, as they almost suggest that defending is all Massimiliano Allegri’s side are capable of.

That said, it would be churlish to overlook their strengths at the back. Their own acronymic trio of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini – or the BBC – are more than capable of holding their own against any of world football’s striking departments.

Even in the absence of their trusty trio, Mehdi Benatia and Daniele Rugani are fine stand-ins.

In Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, Juventus themselves have one of the most fearsome attacks in world football and, when on his game, there are few No.9s around that do their job better than El Pipita.

Currently, Higuain is on form, and looks to be as confident as ever. With four goals in his last two outings, the former Real Madrid marksman single-handedly eliminated another of his old clubs, Napoli, from the Coppa Italia, before downing Chievo with another typically clinical performance.

With Javier Mascherano, in the absence of Sergio Busquets, possibly lining up in midfield on Tuesday, Gerard Pique and his partner, probably Samuel Umtiti, will have their hands full in trying to deal with Higuain, and that’s before even so much as considering Dybala.

Busquets will be missing for Barcelona and will no doubt leave a gaping hole in their midfield as a result. Though Andres Iniesta and co. are unlikely to look too vulnerable, Juve’s Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira are more than capable of taking the game to their opponents, especially during that first leg in Turin.

Juventus are without a defeat in 21 European fixtures at the Juventus Stadium while, rather contrastingly, the Catalan club have fallen to defeat in three of their last four on the road in the Champions League. These three, of course, include the humiliating first-leg demolition at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.

As much as their remarkable comeback illustrated their strengths, the loss at the Parc des Princes shows that they can be not just overcome, but nullified and dominated.

Barca travel to Turin on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Malaga, while Juventus come into the game full of confidence following a victory over Chievo by the same scoreline.

There will be little separating the two sides, both on the night and over the two legs, but given their recent form domestically and in Europe, the Old Lady should be able to find her way through to the semi finals.

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Conor Clancy