Juventus
    Juventus
      10.04.2017 15:30 - in: Champions League S

      MATCH PREVIEW: Juventus vs. Barcelona

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      Key names and numbers and two very important acronyms to remember ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final clash with Barcelona
      Current form

      Arguably the pick of this season’s quarter-finals, Tuesday’s clash between Juventus and Barcelona pits not only two of the continent’s giants against each other but also the Champions League’s best defence against its best attack.

      Juve’s rearguard has been breached just twice in the tournament so far, so ought to be the best-equipped of any of those left in the draw in nullifying a Barca frontline that has found the net 26 times already, scoring more than four times on four different occasions.

      Dani Alves won 23 trophies with Barcelona
      Bonucci and co. have conceded just twice in the UCL

      Beginning with the visitors, Barcelona are set to make their tenth consecutive appearance in the Champions League quarter-finals, a feat that seemed all but impossible after a 4-0 defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the previous round.

      A miraculous comeback in the return fixture set up this tie between two of the continent’s giants and while the force of history may seem to be behind the Blaugrana after that stunning 6-1 victory at the Camp Nou, it is worth bearing in mind that the 2015 winners have prevailed just four times out of 10 on their European travels, losing two of the last three. 

      Andrès Iniesta has made 120 UCL appearances for Barca, more than any other player

      Given the Bianconeri’s traditional strength at Juventus Stadium - where they are undefeated in 21 matches in UEFA competitions and on a 32-game winning streak in Serie A - Massimiliano Allegri’s men will fancy their chances of taking a lead to Barcelona for the second leg next Wednesday.

      At least domestically, it is Juve that head into the game in better form. While Gonzalo Higuain’s double against Chievo was consolidating Juve’s six-point advantage over Roma in Serie A, Barcelona were slipping to a 2-0 defeat away at lowly Malaga, an opportunity missed in the Spanish title race after rivals Real Madrid drew 1-1 with Atletico. 

      Two defeats in their last five La Liga matches see Luis Enrique’s men sit three points behind Real having played a game more. That said, as PSG witnessed in the last 16, form matters little when Barcelona deliver on the big stage.

      KEY MEN: MSN, BBC, HDM…

      With good reason, the first names that come to mind here would Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.  Barcelona’s famous attacking trio have amassed 90 goals and 46 assists between them this season.

      Messi, with 43, has scored more times than any other player in Europe’s top divisions this term, 11 of which have come in the Champions League.

      Lionel Messi has scored 43 times in all competitions this season

      From the best attack to the best defence. Gianluigi Buffon has kept 16 clean sheets, one more than opposite number Marc-André ter Stegen having played two games fewer. The skipper’s stunning performance in Lyon on Matchday 3 was by far one of the most spectacular highlights of Juve’s progression so far.

      Gigi’s heroics coupled with the traditional reliability of a defence that boasts its own acronym of key players, Leonardo Bonucci – the Bianconeri’s number one for passes completed (2152) and interceptions (66) – Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini. No other side have conceded fewer than the Bianconeri’s two goals so far. 

      At the other end of the field, Gonzalo Higuain (27), Paulo Dybala (14) and Mario Mandzukic (7) have found the net a total of 48 times overall, with the former approaching the tie in the best form possible having scored four times in the past week against Napoli and Chievo. 

      Four goals in the last two games for Gonzalo Higuain

      In the words of Juan Cuadrado,  "Messi, Neymar and Suárez are obviously very good but our attacking line is stellar as well, and if I had to pick one, I would certainly go for ours. We complete each other; we are all ready to sacrifice for the others - that is our main strength…"

      Past encounters

      Juve and Barca meet for the tenth time in Champions League history on Tuesday, the second in just three seasons after both clubs went all the way to the Berlin final in 2015.

      Luis Enrique was in the Barcelona XI the last time these two met in a two-legged tie, at the same stage of the competition in 2003. During the first leg at the Stadio delle Alpi, Paolo Montero had put Marcello Lippi's charges a goal to the good before Javier Saviola’s strike ensured it was advantage Barcelona for the return match a week later.

      Determined to cancel out the away goal, Juventus went in front on 53 minutes in the return leg through Pavel Nedved, only for Edgar Davids to be sent off and Barca’s Xavi to equalise and force extra-time.

      With penalties looming, Marcelo Zalayeta stooped to head in Alessandro Birindelli’s cross with 114 minutes on the clock, send the travelling supporters wild and the Bianconeri into the semi-finals where they would go on to eliminate Real Madrid in similarly spectacular fashion.

      Zalayeta sends us to the semis in 2003

      Barca had emerged victorious on both occasions before then, eliminating the Bianconeri 3-2 on aggregate in the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals in 1991 and the old European Cup quarter-finals in 1986, Michel Platini scoring Juve’s only goal in a 2-1 loss over two legs.

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