After a roller coaster first leg in Turin, Bayern Munich and Juventus will go into next Wednesday’s return match in Germany with their Champions League Round-of-16 tie balanced on a knife edge. Bayern dominated the opening hour of the first match between the sides a little over two weeks ago, and appeared set to effectively put the tie to bed inside 90 minutes after goals from Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben either side of halftime. Instead, Juventus launched a fight back that few could have foreseen and before the final whistle had leveled up the tie with goals from Paulo Dybala and Stefano Sturaro.
A draw with two away goals at the home of last season’s Champions League runners-up is on the face of it a fine result for Bayern Munich. Yet the momentum shift in the contest could yet play a sizable role in this heavyweight matchup’s outcome. Having been down and out at one stage, Juventus, while securing a result that they surely wouldn’t have welcomed at the start of the first leg, will now travel to Munich with real hope of progressing.
Their form since the first leg will have done nothing to discourage Massimiliano Allegri’s side, either. Juventus have recorded three straight victories in Serie A and extended their remarkable streak to 18 wins and one draw from their last 19 matches to establish a growing advantage atop the table. A 1-0 win over Sassuolo on Friday also made it 10 consecutive matches for goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon without conceding a goal and moved him within three minutes of the Serie A record.
Even if Buffon keeps a clean sheet at the Allianz Arena next Wednesday, though, Juventus will have to score in order to go through. To achieve that aim there will a heavy reliance on Dybala, who continues to move toward becoming a true superstar, if he isn’t there already. In his first season in Turin after joining from Palermo, the 22-year-old Argentine took his tally to 18 goals with a stunning finish to down Sassuolo.
And after getting his first Champions League goal in the first leg, he will now hope to again prosper against a Bayern Munich defense limited by injury. In the first leg Bayern began with a makeshift center-back pairing of Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba. And Pep Guardiola’s animated discussion with Kimmich after Bayern’s goalless draw with Bundesliga title rivals Borussia Dortmund last weekend perhaps hinted that the lack of available first-choice central defenders was becoming a major frustration to the Catalan.
It is no surprise then that he has described Javi Martínez’s return to partial team training on Friday, five weeks after undergoing knee surgery, as “great news.” Whether the versatile Spaniard will be sufficiently fit to play a major role against Juventus is a significant doubt, but having made his comeback off the bench in the first leg, Mehdi Benatia could well be earmarked for a starting place.
And, while Guardiola was left disappointed by his team’s first-leg collapse, recent history provides plenty of cause for optimism. Bayern Munich have won their last nine home Champions League matches, by an aggregate score of 36-4 to boot. In last season’s knockout phase, they overcame a goalless first leg at Shakhtar Donetsk by winning 7-0 at the Allianz Arena and then overturned a 3-1 deficit against Porto with a 6-1 home victory. Juventus, meanwhile, have only secured one result in their last five Champions League away matches that would send them through on Wednesday.
Prediction: It promises to be another engrossing and tightly fought contest between two of Europe’s finest and most in-form teams. However, Bayern’s hugely impressive home record in the Champions League, coupled with the way in which they controlled the first hour in Turin, along with a healthier defense, means the Bavarians should come out on top.
Predicted score: Bayern Munich 2-1 Juventus (4-3 on aggregate)