Having already overcome one substantial setback in their Champions League last-16 matchup with Bayern Munich, when hauling back a two-goal deficit in the first leg in Turin, Juventus have now been dealt a fresh blow before even making their way to Munich for Wednesday’s return leg. The Italian champions have made the trip without the three players who make up the key spine of the team.
Along with defensive linchpin Giorgio Chiellini and influential midfielder Claudio Marchisio, Paulo Dybala, the young Argentine striker with 18 goals to his name this season and who scored the first goal in Juventus’ fight back to draw 2-2 three weeks ago, will also miss out. As if that weren’t bad enough, Juventus’ other regular starting striker, Mario Mandzukic, is a doubt to take on his former club on Wednesday.
“As a team, we will need to put in a great performance tomorrow night,” manager Massimiliano Allegri said in his pre-match press conference, according to Gazzetta World. “We have a strong squad and it is one that is capable of coping with injuries. At Juve, it is not important who plays but rather how they play. I’m very confident that whoever crosses the white line for us tomorrow will put in a great performance. Anything can happen tomorrow night.
“With Dybala, he hasn’t torn a muscle and we hope it isn’t too serious but we felt it was best to leave him at home. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow before we decide on Mandzukic but he trained today and is in good shape.”
Prior to those injuries, all had been going well for Juventus. Last Friday, Allegri’s side made it 18 wins in their last 19 Serie outings thanks to a 1-0 victory over Sassuolo which also saw Gianluigi Buffon close to within three minutes of the record Serie A shutout streak.
Bayern similarly maintained their advantage atop the Bundesliga over the weekend, thanks to an emphatic 5-0 drubbing of Werder Bremen. Their defensive issues have been eased, too, with Mehdi Benatia now back to full fitness and Javi Martinez having returned to training. However, Arjen Robben is now a doubt for Wednesday’s return leg after battling a cold that caused him to miss Tuesday’s snow-affected training system in Bavaria.
“I don’t know if he can play,” manager Pep Guardiola said, reports Reuters. “I hope he can make it but at this point I do not know it. We could not train too much because of the snow. At the end it became a bit dangerous.”
The bigger hurdle, though, could be overcoming the relinquishing of their advantage in the first leg, when they had looked set to go on and effectively seal their progress to a fifth straight quarterfinal with 90 minutes still to play.
“I would have liked to have won 5-0 but it did not happen so we have to live with that,” he added. “But we should not look at the result. We must play our game. Use our strengths and their weaknesses. We must not only attack but also defend well.”
Match time: 3:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 2, ESPN Deportes