22.02.2016 18:48 - in: Champions League S

    Guardiola: "Intriguing encounter awaits"

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    Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola predicts a closely-fought Champions League contest on Tuesday night at Juventus Stadium

    Pep Guardiola may never have faced the Bianconeri before during a coaching career spanning almost a decade, but he was keen to make it clear from the outset that the Old Lady’s achievements over the last four and a half seasons had not escaped his attentions.

    Speaking to the media in a packed press conference hall at Juventus Stadium, the Bayern Munich manager began: “I’ve admired the work done by Juventus over the years. They didn’t start the campaign well, but now they’ve shown excellent team qualities again and this is, without doubt, a very interesting game.

    “They have considerable strength in depth across the park and plenty of experience especially in their backline. In many ways, they embody the great Italian sporting qualities of grit, determination and a responsibility to defend when they need to.”

    While accepting that Tuesday night’s match-up against Massimiliano Allegri’s men represented a significant challenge, “typical of any game in the Champions League last 16,” he was under few allusions as to his objective for the first leg in Turin.

    “We’re setting out to play well, score a couple of goals and to take home a result that gives us the best opportunity to win the tie back in Munich. 

    “That said, we know that it won’t be easy, given Juve’s form. They rarely ever concede. In fact, seven matches have passed since they last let in a goal.

    “We’ve therefore been thinking about altering our approach in order to overcome their defensive strengths and to make up for our injury problems in the backline.”

    In light of Bayern’s rearguard absences, with no recognised centre-back fit to face the Bianconeri tomorrow, Guardiola placed emphasis on the tactical and technical versatility of his players, enabling them to carry out a variety of roles on the pitch – something which has been evident in the recent outings of Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba at the heart of defence.

    One other player singled out for his flexibility was ex Bianconero Arturo Vidal, who Guardiola confirmed as an option in the backline.

    “Obviously Arturo’s best position is in midfield, but he has the ability to interchange between roles and it’s a possibility that he could play further back than usual.”

    Asked how he expected Juventus to approach the encounter, Guardiola predicted a solid pressing game, especially if former Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic were to feature up front, a threat which he claimed his team are now better equipped to counteract than in 2014/15.

    He concluded: “The difference between this Bayern side and last year’s is that we’ve greater squad depth. Against Barcelona in last season’s semi-final, we barely had anyone in our ranks able to beat their man in a one-on-one situation.

    "Now, we’ve more players capable of doing that. All in all, we’ve become less predictable in the way we play.”

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