It's been over two months since Juventus last saw Manchester City. Over the course of that time, plenty of things have happened — both for the good and for the bad. We've seen Juventus rise from the depths of the relegation zone and now on the brink of breaking into the top end of the table after such a sluggish start. We've also seen the self-proclaimed Best League in the World sputter to do things right.
(Seriously, Leicester City is in first place. Seriously.
Here we are again set to face the team that so many people picked to finish first in the group.
Yet those times entering the first Juventus-Manchester City meeting are a little different than these current times.
Man City were flying to open the Premier League season. They won their first five league games. They were scoring goals galore and causing everybody to go absolutely bonkers with early-season small sample size fun. But it's been a little different since then. City has lost as many as they've won in their last eight games against EPL opposition. They've dropped 13 points in their last eight games. Those good times, as pretty much confirmed to all of us during the dismantling by Liverpool over the weekend, seem like a distant memory the way things are going right now.
Juventus enter on a little bit of a different kind of situation. They may not be lighting the world on fire during their current rise up the Serie A table, but they're picking up results. And based on how incredibly frustrating Juventus were to begin the season — even when they did beat Man City in England to open the group stage — I'd rather see them grind out wins compared to the previous options we had in front of us.
Maybe that winning yet not stellar play doesn't bode well for the European stage, but it could be worse, I guess. Let's not forget that with all the bad things that happened over the first two months of the season, Juve rolled into the Etihad Stadium and stunned a red-hot City team thanks a second-half comeback. Three group stage games later, Juve still stand atop the group standings. As we sit here with two group stage games remaining, Juventus are in position to advance the knockout round like we all desperately want them to.
Maybe being at home will be better for Juventus against an extremely talented yet out-of-form Man City squad. Or maybe we're in for another 90 minutes of absolute stress and heartburn. (Doesn't that sound great!)
But there's one thing that's for certain: Juventus can vastly improve their immediate Champions League future with a positive result against Manchester City on Wednesday night. And if there's the need for another Álvaro Morata stunner in the second half, well, then so be it. Whatever gets us there, right?
No disagreement here, Max. No disagreement at all.
Juventus is in first place in Group D. Manchester City is in second place in Group D.
Take that, blue side of Manchester.
With Juventus' draw against Borussia Monchengladbach and City's win over Sevilla last round, all of one point now separates first and second place in the Group D standings. Basically, unless Juventus beats Man City on Wednesday, first place in the group is up for grabs until the final day of the group stage.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Do the injuries force Allegri to go with the 3-5-2?
In short version: Yeah, probably. That's what happens when you lose a couple midfielders and have all three of your best center backs healthy.
Is it the right move? I don't know, man. We can sit here and go back and forth about what Juventus could be like in each formation that is realistically in the cards against City, but sometimes the personnel available only allows you to do so much. Maybe Allegri is thinking a 4-3-3 is a possibility — it's had to at least cross his mind knowing that Juan Cuadrado is fresh — but most of the mock starting lineups I've seen are center around a three-man defense. Seeing as that's what helped Juventus beat Man City the first time around, I guess I'm not totally opposed to it. And it's not like City are coming into the match guns blazing and at full strength. But if a 3-5-2 means Paulo Dybala and Morata up front, then that's fine with me.
2. Paulo Dybala's role and impact.
We've reached the point know where the young Argentine has scored more Serie A goals the rest of Juventus' strikers combined. If that's not a hint as to No. 21 being in the lineup 80 or 90 percent of the time, I don't know what is. So if it's a 3-5-2, 4-4-3, whatever, Dybala should be a part of it no matter what. He's Juventus' best striker right now, and knowing that he's starting to really show how much he's settled in, there's plenty of reason to think this can be just the beginning. His goals are becoming more and more vital, and while you might fear that Juve may become Dybala dependent, the young Argentine hasn't necessarily shied away from such a possible burden. And seeing as he's going to be playing against a Man City defense that is far from full strength,
3. How Stefano Sturaro fills in for Sami Khedira.
Sturaro's season has been an interesting one. He's done well in some games, not so well in others. Sounds like Juventus' season a little bit, doesn't it? Well, yeah, that's a fair comparison. (And not just because I wrote it myself.) But with Khedira being ruled out for the next week or so, we know that one of Juve's calming influences in the midfield won't be there in what could end up being one of the most important games of this current season. We've seen first-hand how Khedira's presence adds to the quality of Juve's starting lineup. Sturaro, on the other end, is obviously talented but still very rough around the edges. He's shown he can handle the European stage once before, and it would sure be nice for him to at least come close to filling Khedira's shoes on Wednesday. Easier said than done, of course...
4. How does City handle its own injury situation?
You need to look no further than the squad that played against Liverpool over the weekend to realize that Manchester City is not only struggling to find form, but also dealing with a good number of injuries. Let's just go ahead and see Manuel Pellegrini rattle off the names of the injured players who won't play against Juventus...
Seeing as how many injuries Juventus has had to deal with this season and how many players are currently rehabbing physical problems, it's not exactly new to us around these parts to see a somewhat-makeshift lineup. Juve have their own amount of absentees due to injury, so no sympathy here, pal! But even with that, you see that Man City are missing a couple of key defenders, one of their most creative players as well as a striker who played against Juventus the first time around. It hasn't been a very frequent occurrence this season where Juventus are the more healthy of the two teams, but they can be at this point. Pellegrini has selection issues, and not because he has so much squad depth it's popping out of his ears. If there ever was a time Man City was able to get got, this might be it.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Stefano Sturaro, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Paulo Dybala, Álvaro Morata
TV: Fox Sports 2 (United States); TSN 4, RDS (Canada); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD (Italy)
Online: Fox Soccer 2GO (United States); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live on Twitter. If you haven't already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.