Two of Europe’s genuine footballing giants go head-to-head in Bavaria as Bayern Munich host Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Tuesday.
The contest is arguably the highlight of an engrossing selection of contests in Europe’s premier competition—both sides are currently dominating their domestic leagues with Bayern leading the Bundesliga by 20 points, and Juventus nine clear of Napoli in Serie A.
Speaking ahead of the draw, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggested that there were no longer any easy draws left in the competition—but even the legendary forward will realise the challenge that a resurgent Juventus side pose.
The Germans bested Arsenal to secure their place in the quarterfinal draw, and despite a slight wobble, Bayern will be favourites to advance to take a semifinal berth. Juventus saw off Celtic with relative ease over two legs, and despite being outsiders to advance, the Italian champions will not fear their illustrious opposition.
Juve are currently unbeaten in this year’s Champions League, and the side have impressed en route to the quarterfinal. Bayern’s midfield maestro Bastian Schweinsteiger declared his admiration for the Turin-based side, and was quoted as saying “they are a very, very good team.” The midfield contest between Schweinsteiger and Andrea Pirlo could well be one for the ages.
The two heavyweights have met six times in the Champions League, and even though Bayern scored in the most recent victory—a 4-1 demolition back in December 2009—the Italians have the upper hand, having won 50% of those previous contests, losing two and drawing one.
Bayern can take solace however—that last, crushing victory saw them knock the Old Lady out of the contest before themselves marching all the way to the final.
Intrigue will surround the meeting of the two managers as well. Serie A Weekly pointed out the relationship between the two men: Jupp Heynckes was Real Madrid manager back in 1998 as the side won the Champions League, beating Juventus in the final. Current Juve boss Antonio Conte made a late substitute appearance in that bout, only to have his Champions League dreams dashed.
Will he and Juventus make the most of this opportunity for revenge?
Bayern Munich Team News
Bayern are currently on great form, and their domestic dominance shows no sign of slowing down. Of their last five games they have won four and lost only one, the second leg of their knockout game against Arsenal—when the contest was already all but won.
A 9-2 demolition of Hamburg on Saturday will have alerted those in Northern Italy. Bayern are on form, and are poised to tear apart any side that face them.
The German giants were content to avoid domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund and holders Barcelona in this round, but will need to be on top form to get the best of Juventus. This first, home leg will be pivotal.
The side is settled, but one major loss will be Spanish midfielder Javi Martinez. The versatile defensive player is ruled out of the contest after picking up a one-match suspension, and will be a major loss.
Defender Holger Badstuber is a long-term absentee, having sustained a serious injury in December. The original trajectory for his recovery suggested a return to training in the early summer, but it now seems like he might be absent for longer.
Juventus Team News
The Italian champions are also on good form, since the beginning of March they have played five, and won four, the only exception being an away draw with Napoli back on March 1. A triumphant away victory against Internazionale on Saturday evening will have left the side buoyed with confidence.
For the most part, this Juve team has grown and evolved together. The spine of the side were together as the club went nearly a half century unbeaten on their way to the Serie A title last season. There are some, not least of all Bleacher Report’s Matteo Bonetti, who believe that the title will soon be returning to Northern Italy.
Defence is a key part of Juve’s game plan, leading some to suggest that the Italians boast the strongest back line in the European game today.
Juventus have almost a full squad of players to select from, one exception being Mirko Vucinic, who has developed the symptoms of a fever since returning from international duty with Montenegro.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini missed Italy’s international weekend after the return of a persistent ankle injury but has regained fitness and is likely to play.
Antonio Conte has chosen to rotate his strikers this term, with all three of Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco getting significant game time. The first two scored against Inter at the weekend, and may well be chosen to start again.
Despite avoiding serious injury, Giovinco is a doubt after falling victim of an ugly Esteban Cambiasso challenge late into the weekend’s game. Cambiasso saw red, but the Atomic Flea is likely to sit out against Bayern
One cause for concern might be Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah. Since returning from the Black Stars’ disappointing Cup of Nations campaign, ‘Asa’ has struggled to regain the form he enjoyed last year. A combative, energetic and often creative influence on the left side or in the centre of the pitch, his terrific pre-Afcon contributions have been conspicuous in their absence.
The home side will be on a high following their demolition of Hamburg over the weekend. Despite Juventus's famed defence, I expect the attacking menace of Munich to be too strong for the Old Lady of Turin. I foresee a 2-0 home victory.