Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola had conceded his injury-ravaged defense faces a tough task to stop Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League Round-of-16 matchup in Turin on Tuesday. Bayern go into the clash with three central defenders, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martínez, all definitely ruled out through injury. Meanwhile, there are question marks over their only other two natural options at the back. Mehdi Benatia is back in training but has not featured since December, while Sader Tasci only made his debut on Saturday after arriving on loan from Spartak Moscow.
“We have [injury] problems, but what can we do?” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference. “We hardly have any players—we have Tasci and Benatia, but they have either just arrived or trained for only two or three days. I expect Juve to press high up the field, but if we can cope with that pressure, then we will see.
“We don't have any central defenders–that's how it is. We've got to attack intelligently and avoid conceding set pieces as they are maybe the best team in Europe from set pieces. With [Leonardo] Bonucci, [Andrea] Barzagli, [Sami] Khedira, [Paul] Pogba they are all really big; and our central defender is [Joshua] Kimmich [a 5-foot-9 converted midfielder].”
Bayern can at least call upon fairly recent experience of ousting Juventus in the Champions League. In 2012, the Bavarians beat the Italian champions 2-0 both home and away in the quarterfinals en route to lifting the trophy. But that was under previous coach Jupp Heynckes, and for Guardiola, having revealed he will be moving to Manchester City for next season, this now represents his final chance to get his hands on the trophy at Bayern.
His counterpart at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday, Massimiliano Allegri, came close to lifting the trophy in his first season in charge in Turin, only to lose 3-1 to Barcelona in the final last May. After that defeat, Juventus underwent significant reshaping, with key players Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and now Bayer man Arturo Vidal departing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new look team made a poor start to this season. But results have picked up markedly in recent months, and only a goalless draw with Bologna last Friday snapped a 15-match winning streak that has taken them back to the top of Serie A.
Still, despite that form and Bayern’s defensive problems, Allegri has hinted his team will take a cautious approach in the first leg.
“If I said that I’m hoping for a 0-0 draw then everyone would direct insults at me,” he said on Monday, reports Gazzetta World. “However a 0-0 draw at home is a great result because you can go through in the return leg by avoiding defeat. It’s unlikely that tomorrow’s match will end 0-0 so we’ll have to do well in the first leg regardless. They are favorites to win the Champions League so it is an important test for us.”
As well as Vidal, Juventus are likely to be going up against another former player, in young French winger Kingsley Coman. But Juventus will be able to call upon the services of a former Bayern man, as Mario Mandzukic, along with Khedira, has been declared fit.
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: Fox Sports 2