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Juventus-Shakhtar Donetsk Preview: From Ukraine With Love

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THE CHAMPIOOOOOOOONS!!!!!

Claudio Villa - Getty Images

It's been three long years since the last time the Champions League was in Torino. That night is something I'm sure a lot of us forgot many months ago and would never like to re-live it. The chance to make the knockout stages was right in front of Juventus — then they decided that completely imploding was a better idea.

I don't know why I'm leading with this.

Wait! Actually I do!

We are finally getting the Champions League back to Turin. And for the first time in its short existence, Europe's premier club competition is coming to Juventus Stadium. Man, if our stadium was a toddler, it would be one spoiled child. I sure wish I got to witness all of the awesome stuff it has gotten to. The crown jewel of Italian calcio is adding another chapter to its history that is already quite magnificent.

All those nights where we suffered watching Juventus at the Olimpico in the Europa League are gone. This is the new era, one with Champions League and a fortress of a stadio. I like it. And love it.

Is that possible? I think so.

Either way, it's set up to be another magical European night.

AVANTI!

LE CHIAVI

Two weeks have passed since Juventus' last voyage into European football territory. Some good things have happened, some not so good things as well. But there's no denying that Juve are headed into this clash with momentum after the bi-annual beatdown of Roma over the weekend. To me, that's exactly the kind of response after a sub-par — although not the worst result in the world — mid-week against Fiorentina.

Now Shakhtar comes to town in an incredibly important fixture in Group E. The Ukrainian giants, who are currently riding a 19-game unbeaten run, sit top the group after beating Nordsjælland 2-0 in Donetsk on Matchday 1. Obviously the Chelsea matchup got all the glamor, but this is the one that could very well be the decider as to whether Juventus make it to the knockout stages. Shakhtar are a quality team and this isn't going to be an easy game by any means.

But Juventus and the defending Danish champions are two different challenges. Shakhtar will be entering a city and stadium that is witnessing Champions League football for the first time since 2009.

GOOD NEWS

Just about everybody is healthy — sans Simone Pepe — and coming off a fantastic showing against Roma three days ago, I'm not sure that there's much more any of us could ask for.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • Juventus Stadium and one of the best atmospheres that will take place to date. The tifosi only get that much louder when the situation calls for it — and this is one of those times. Seeing as they haven't had a European game to attend in three years and this Juventus Stadium's Champions League maiden voyage, the volume is going to be hitting some huge decibels. It's just a matter of how loud it will be. And don't forget all of the pre-match choreography. It'll be a spectacle even before the opening kickoff.
  • Shakhtar's overall quality. I'm no expert on Ukrainian football. Nor do I say I am (or stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night). Those who do have an idea of what the Ukrainian powerhouse is capable say that they're the sleeper team in the group, so I'll just go along with that. Like I said, this is the pivotal game in which to get points, especially since Juventus have two consecutive games against Nordsjælland after the international break.
  • Starting strikers. Alessandro Matri scored against Roma. So did Sebastian Giovinco. Mirko Vucinic is playing well right now. Fabio Quagliarella had one hell of a week the last time the Champions League filled all of our respective minds. Other than Vucinic starting, I really have no idea which direction Antonio Conte may go. If he wants a more physical presence up front, it will be Matri. If he wants to go with a creative pair up top, it'll likely be Giovinco.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Matri