Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
February 21, 2017
Juventus will travel to Porto on Wednesday for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie, as the Serie A giants look to continue their fine run.
The Italians have won seven straight matches in all competitions, while Porto have won their last six and are expected to be a real challenge to the Old Lady’s European ambitions.
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming match.
Date: Wednesday, February 22
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT
Venue: Estadio do Dragao, Porto
TV Info: BT Sport 3 (UK), Fox Sports 2 (U.S.)
Live Stream: BT Sport app, Fox Soccer 2Go
Porto’s upturn in form has coincided with the end of their injury wave. Entering Wednesday’s clash, manager Nuno Espirito Santo has a full squad to work with.
Juventus defenders Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini both missed the 4-1 win over Palermo and remain doubts for Wednesday, per Calciomercato.com. Miralem Pjanic should be back to full health, however.
Possible Porto XI: Iker Casillas, Alex Telles, Marcano, Felipe, Maxi Pereira, Oliver Torres, Danilo Pereira, Hector Herrera, Jesus Corona, Andre Silva, Soares
Possible Juventus XI: Gianluigi Buffon, Alex Sandro, Leonardo Bonucci, Medhi Benatia, Dani Alves, Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Gonzalo Higuain
Porto and Juventus will enter Wednesday’s match with the top defences in the Portuguese and Italian leagues, respectively, and given their form, the first leg should be a tight affair.
Juventus are the favourites, but manager Massimiliano Allegri and his players have spent the week talking up their opponents. Per the Old Lady’s official Twitter account, Medhi Benatia did his part:
“It just wouldn’t be the @ChampionsLeague if matches were straightforward.”
@MedhiBenatia ahead of #FCPJuve 👉 https://t.co/X8hKHo0vAo #UCL https://t.co/o3yafiqSuE
2/18/2017, 9:30:11 PM
Juventus’ defensive injuries are an issue―Benatia is likely to partner Leonardo Bonucci in the heart of the defence, although Daniele Rugani could also be an option.
The absence of Barzagli and Chiellini all but assures Juventus come out in the 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked so well of late, with Paulo Dybala pulling the strings in midfield and Mario Mandzukic working from the wing.
In front of them, Gonzalo Higuain is in the form of his life, scoring four goals in his last three matches. Per Bleacher Report UK, he’s having quite the season:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
Two goals on Sunday
12 goals in his last 12 games
21 goals this season
2/14/2017, 8:59:19 AM
Things won’t be easy in Portugal, however. Porto are as tactically versatile as Juventus, and it’s anyone’s guess which―fluid―formation they’ll use on Wednesday. In Andre Silva, they have a stud striker of their own, although he has cooled off a bit after a scorching start to the season.
Set pieces could prove the difference―the Bianconeri have struggled defending corners this season, an issue that will only be enhanced if Chiellini misses out. Likewise, Iker Casillas isn’t always reliable on corner kicks, and the Bianconeri have several dead-ball specialists.
Juventus’ attack was splendid during the weekend, but expect both teams to be cautious during the first leg of this tie. With two class defences, a scoreless draw seems very likely.
Prediction: Porto 0-0 Juventus