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UEFA Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Olympiacos — Home sweet home?

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Valerio Pennicino

At this point, Juventus' struggles in the Champions League are as well-chronicled as their success in Serie A during the past three years under Antonio Conte. We don't need to go into it any further for the simple reason of saving some of our sanity at the current moment you are reading this.

But what is known is what's about to either take place or blow up in Juventus' face once more.

Juventus know what they have to do when Olympiacos comes to Turin tomorrow night. We all know what they have to do when Olympiacos comes to Turin tomorrow night. It's basically the worst kept secret in the world at this point. But when you claim three points in your first three Champions League games this season, the cat is basically out of the bag even before you can try and even stop it.

Of course, it's fundamental. No matter of how Juventus may be doing in the Champions League this season, whenever we hear there's a European game, it's damn important. This game, this visit from the Greek champions to the house where the Italian champions currently reside, is for a couple of reasons:

  1. It's Europe and Juventus need to do well in the Champions League no matter who the manager is at the current time.
  2. How Juventus have played in Europe this season, which obviously has left a lot to be desired through the first three group stage games.

You can debate about it all you want until you're blue in the face. But the fact still remains this: Juventus need to win tomorrow night against Olympiacos. There's no reason not to. There's no reason around it. They've put themselves into this situation, and now it's time to get themselves out of it.

So what's it going to be, gentlemen? Personally, I would like Juventus to win and make Group A a complete mess again.

GOOD NEWS

Compared to the last time Juventus were set to face Olympiacos, Allegri's squad is actually coming off a win rather than a drab 1-1 draw against Sassuolo. I understand that in the grand scheme of things Juventus didn't play all that great against Empoli over the weekend, but a win's a win. Especially considering what kind of result Juventus got a couple days before their win over Empoli.

BAD NEWS

Have you been paying attention to how Juventus has played in the Champions League lately? If not, I suggest you put away all the sharp objects in the house just in case you suddenly find the desire to throw something at a high velocity.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Can Juventus take advantage of being at home?

I don't know about you guys, but I feel like doing a science experiment. First, this is what Juventus has done in the Champions League when they've played a game at Juventus Stadium:

One game, three points.

Now, this is what Juventus has away from home in the Champions League this year:

Two games, zero points.

While the first half of the group stage was frustrating as all hell, Juventus know they've got the schedule in their favor for the regular fixtures. Well, outside of a trip to Sweden in the month of December, that is. Can they take advantage of it? They better, because there's not much else they can do to get things — on paper, at least — to help them overcome their sluggish start to this season's Champions League. They've shown up in big games at Juventus Stadium before (remember Chelsea a few years back?), and they'll need to again. They can't afford not to.

2. Juventua and the first half against Olympiacos.

We don't have to look far when researching how Juve has struggled in the first half this season. Take Saturday's win over Empoli as Exhibit A, folks. Juventus didn't just struggle, they looked absolutely terrible. And it's not the first time that's happened this season, either. For whatever reason — and there's a lot of them at this point — this team has struggled to really come out and force the issue in the first 45 minutes of a game a good number of times this season. It took them nearly 60 minutes to really show a sense of urgency against Olympiacos in Greece, which surely wasn't something that Allegri had in mind. You would have to think with the home crowd likely fired up from the onset, they would want to come out firing. I mean, they don't have any more room for error in the Champions League this season. That's not an overstatement, that's just reality.

3. The Álvaro Morata Watch

We bring you our newest segment in BWRAO previews, one where we discuss the fact that Álvaro Morata has been Juventus' best striker not named Carlos Tévez this season. Oh, and the fact that he should be starting tomorrow night. But will he start tomorrow night?

Max, you're not any kind of help to us whatsoever. And now we're left to wonder how serious this comment truly is. Could Llorente, bad form and all, start over Morata in one of Juventus' most important games this season to do? Allegri has shown a lot of faith Llorente this season, which might be skewing my gut feeling as to who's playing a little bit. Logic tells me — and pretty much everybody else — that Morata is the easy choice to start next to Tévez tomorrow. But we truly don't know who it will be. I guess we're left to wait, and that's no fun.

4. Who's the odd man out in the center of the midfield?

We've been down this road before. We've tried to speculate who will play and who won't. But this is a crucial Champions League contest, so we're going to talk about it again. Which one of the four central midfielders — Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio — isn't going to be starting against Olympiacos? Reasonable question to ask, right? Of course it is. When you have four midfielders vying for three spots, then it's a legitimate question. You can read below who I think should start, but that's just me. Trying to get into the cranium of Max Allegri and figure out what he's thinking isn't always the easiest thing to do these days. We can pretty much assume that Pogba will be one of the three since he was rested over the weekend against Empoli. That means it's three for two spots. I'd personally go with Vidal and Marchisio, but that's just me.

5. Will Allegri be forced to start Simone Padoin because Kwadwo Asaomah is injured?

It wouldn't be a Juventus match preview if we didn't bring up the fact that a large portion of Juve's defense and/or wingback position is currently battling injuries. We know the usual suspects by now — Andrea Barzagli, Martín Cáceres, Patrice Evra. But over the course of Juventus' win over Empoli on Saturday, we can add two more names to the list of those who are currently injured: Angelo Ogbonna and Kwadwo Asamoah. Both Ogbonna and Asamoah are called up, but only Allegri — and not somebody like me who is thousands of miles away — truly knows if both of them are healthy and able to play. It could be a sign they are healthy enough to play, it could be a deke to make Olympiacos think they're both healthy enough to play. If Asamoah isn't, though, it's almost certainly Padoin time, ladies and gentlemen.

At least we know who will be playing on the other wing, right? Yeah, I'd say that's a good thing.

steiner approval

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Ogbonna, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba, Asamoah; Tévez, Morata

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST