11 September 2017
By the end of 2017, Juventus and Barcelona will have met an astonishing six times (five UCL matches and one friendly) in the last two and a half years. That said, this remains a fixture that continues to catch the imagination of supporters and all lovers of the beautiful game, and represents an exhilarating way to kick off the new Champions League campaign.
WHEN BLAUGRANA HOST BIANCONERI
If Paulo Dybala’s breath-taking brace characterised the home leg of last year’s Champions League quarter-final, it was the resilience and resoluteness of the defence that ensured the Bianconeri would keep a clean sheet at the Camp Nou to ensure a comprehensive 3-0 aggregate victory.
Juve’s only other UCL trip to the Camp Nou, another quarter-final second leg played back in 2003, was perhaps the most dramatic of all previous encounters against the Catalans:
After drawing 1-1 in Turin, Juventus took a crucial away lead through Pavel Nedved only to be pegged back by a Xavi equaliser. Edgar Davids’ dismissal in the 79th minute left the Bianconeri with just 10 men for almost three quarters of an hour (including extra time) remaining.
With 114 minutes on the clock and penalties looming, Marcelo Zalayeta stooped to head in Alessandro Birindelli’s cross to send the travelling supporters wild and the Bianconeri into the semi-finals.
NEW FACES AT CAMP NOU
It has been a summer of significant changes at Barcelona, not least with the arrival of new manager Ernesto Valverde from Athletic Bilbao to replace the outgoing Luis Enrique.
Valverde had spent four years at the helm of the Basque club, where his highlights included leading them to a fourth-place finish and subsequent Champions League qualification in 2014. The following year, he steered Athletic to their second Supercopa trophy in the club’s history after defeating his current emplyers in the final (5-1 on aggregate).
Barcelona were at the centre of football history’s biggest ever transfer in financial terms, when Brazil star Neymar joined Paris Saint-Germain for a world record fee and they have invested almost half of that money in signing France international forward Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund.
The Blaugrana have bolstered their midfield by bringing in Brazil international Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande. Elsewhere, Portuguese full-back Nélson Semedo has joined from Benfica, while forward Gerard Deulofeu returned to his boyhood club from Everton.
Both Juventus and Barcelona have come quickly out of the traps this season, registering nine points from a possible nine in their respective leagues.
The two teams have been scoring for fun as well: Juventus had not netted 10 goals in their first three matches of a Serie A season since 1981, as they’ve swept aside Cagliari (3-0), Genoa (4-2) and Chievo (3-0) to sit top of the table.
Barcelona too currently claim pole position in La Liga after seeing off Real Betis (2-0), Deportivo Alavés (2-0) and most recently Espanyol (5-0) in the derby.
If only to continue the similarities between their two starts to the season, both teams’ victories have been made primarily in Argentina:
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juve’s Paulo Dybala have scored five goals apiece in three matches, while compatriot Gonzalo Higuain has also chipped in with two strikes of his own for the Bianconeri.
Needless to say, all eyes will be on the Argentine trio in the build-up to kick-off on Tuesday night.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Juventus and Barcelona have never previously faced one another in a Champions League group stage.
- This is Juventus’ 18th Champions League group stage campaign and a sixth in succession.
- Juventus recorded a win (vs Sevilla) and a draw (vs Barcelona) in last season’s two trips to Spain.
- Mario Mandzukic (Atletico Madrid), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid) and Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) have all played in Spain.
- This is Barcelona's 22nd Champions League group stage campaign and 14th in succession.
- The Blaugrana last failed to progress to the competition’s knockout stages in 2000/01.
- Barcelona are unbeaten in 21 matches at home in the competition, a run that started in September 2013 (W19 D2).