Bayern Munich could not have warmed up for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal any better than by recording an extraordinary 9-2 victory over Stuttgart on Saturday, but goals are likely to be at far more of a premium against a high quality Juventus side.
Having finished runners up in three competitions this season, Bayern are a side that appears desperate to make amends this campaign.
The Bundesliga title is all-but sewn up, with a 20 point lead at the top, they are in the semifinals of the German Cup and seen by many as a leading contender to claim the European Cup.
A 3-1 victory at Arsenal in the first leg of their last-16 tie raised expectations and rightly so as they dominated the Premier League side. In full evidence that night was the increased work rate and pressing off the ball that is surely at least in some part a result of the hunger to overcome the disappointments from last May.
At the heart of the team is a central midfield trio of rare quality.
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Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos are all excellent in possession, hard workers without it and each being something slightly different to the table. It is arguably the best midfield in Europe outside of Barcelona.
But that is a claim that will likely be disputed in Turin.
Juventus’ success since Antonio Conte took the reins at the start of last season as in large part been based on the ageless playmaking skills of Andrea Pirlo, the tenacity and drive of Arturo Vidal as well as the all-round quality of Claudio Marchisio. Again, like their counterparts in Munich, the three are all ball-playing midfielders meaning that a matchup pleasing on the eye should be in store.
The Italian champions also have an impressive trio at the back, led by Giorgio Chiellini and joined by his fellow Italy internationals Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci. While it is far from a stereotypically defensive Italian outfit under Conte, Juventus showed against Celtic that they are can still be ruthless in denying opportunities at the back.
In the first leg at the Allianz Arena, Juventus are likely going to need to be similarly mean to maintain their chances of a first appearance in the semifinals in 10 years.
Another potential key, though, is whether Juventus will also be as efficient in attack as they were in the last round. If there is a weakness to this side then there can be no question that it is up front. Alessandro Matri has found his scoring boots at just the right time in the campaign but for all Mirko Vucinic’s ability he can often be a frustrating presence and Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco are not of the quality you would expect in a European-Cup winning side.
Conte’s decision to bring in much-traveled French veteran Nicolas Anelka in January perhaps demonstrated the coach’s own uncertainty with the options at his disposal as does the signing of Fernando Llorente for next season.
In a tie as evenly matched as the one with Bayern, an away goal could be crucial and Juventus’s forwards will need to take any chances presented them.
If they can do that, then, against a defense that has been mightily impressive this season but that is not impervious, the Bianconeri could well head back to Turin with the tie slightly in their favor.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 1-1 Juventus