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UEFA Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Manchester City

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For a variety of reasons, Juventus-Manchester City is a European matchup we haven't seen much of in recent memory. The last time the two teams meet in England was 2010, a decent number of years where quite a bit has happened — both good and bad — for both clubs. Titles have been won, lots of money spent,

Manchester City vs. Juventus:Tuesday, September 15, 2015 20:45 CET, 2:45 p.m. ET, 11:45 a.m. PT Etihad StadiumManchester, England

Every now and then it's interesting take a trip down memory lane and remember what once was. So, for the sake of refreshing our memory, here's the starting lineup from that trip to Manchester five years ago. Don't be shy. You know you're curious to rehash a few of those memories of yesteryear.

Alex Manninger (GK); Zdenek Grygera, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo De Ceglie; Milos Krasic, Momo Sissoko, Claudio Marchisio, Jorge Martinez; Vincenzo Iaquinta, Alessandro Del Piero

Just for kicks, here's the actual visual evidence of that same Juventus starting lineup from that late-September night in 2010 when the Etihad Stadium was actually officially known as the Eastlands.

Three players from that starting lineup still remain at the club. One of them, Claudio Marchisio, was set to be a huge part of Tuesday's game until we found out he's hurt and won't even make the trip to Manchester. So, yeah, times are a different, and all of us can see that.

I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that it's been quite a change from five years ago when Juventus were still in the midst of discovering that Gigi Delneri wouldn't be around come that next summer. That was the Europa League, this is the group stage of the Champions League. Instead of a seventh-place finish in Serie A, Juventus are coming off their fourth straight Scudetto and a spot in last season's Champions League final.

Juventus' fortunes haven't been so hot to begin this current campaign. We know about all of the roster turnover, how nearly half of the squad is changed from the one that faced Barcelona in Berlin last June. And we know how this team has struggled to start the Serie A season on any kind of positive note through the first three games. Some of it has to do with so many new elements, some of it has to do with the fact that important players are either injured or completely out of form at the moment.

And some of it, honestly, is that Juventus, as a team, just aren't playing so well.

But the Champions League is the Champions League. And now that they've gotten to the final as a group, they'll certainly want to make their next visit a much shorter of a wait. There's only one way to have that happen — get out of the group stage and then see where things may lead to.

Considering how tough this Group D is this season, starting off on the right foot will be oh so incredibly crucial.

GOOD NEWS

Juventus actually have a point in Serie A now. Progress!

BAD NEWS

Juventus' on-field chemistry resembles poop emojis right now.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Will Big Game Juventus — or even Good Juventus — show up in Manchester?

We've seen this team struggle in games and then suddenly flip the switch under the brightest of lights and biggest of microscopes. Even while their form wasn't so great the last couple months of last season domestically, we all know what they did to get to the Champions League final. Sure, it's a new group and it's a new season, but that oh so lovely grinta and big-game alertness should always be there. What a better opportunity for them to show just that against a team that has undoubtedly started their domestic campaign as well as anybody and have the tipsters thinking Man City are a legitimate threat to make noise in this season's competition. Juventus are the underdogs in this one, and just like it was the case against Barcelona three-plus months ago, that's totally okay. Juve have thrived in the past in this kind of situation. So why not have it happen again?

2. What formation Max Allegri goes with?

This seemed a little easier to figure out with Marchisio healthy again. But, as we've come to know, that's changed rather quickly. The rumors going around the interwebs on Monday morning in the aftermath of the Marchisio news has Allegri going with one of two formations, a 3-5-2 or Christmas tree 4-3-2-1. Let's see what Allegri had to say about it during his pre-match press conference on Monday, shall we?

Ah, that's more like it, Max. You're back to what I come to expect out of you when talking about your starting lineup ahead of important games. Bravo to you.

But there's no denying that the injury to Marchisio — and who Juventus will be playing Tuesday night — will factor in to Allegri's tactical setup decision. City love them some attacking football with who they have up top, and Allegri may side with a more defensive-minded lineup because of that. This is certainly one of the more interesting lineup decisions he's had to make so far this season. Not just because of who's available to play, but who his team is playing, too.

3. Defending Manchester City's speed.

What formation Allegri uses will likely have a big role in how he wants to defend City and all of their attacking options. When you can roll out an attacking quartet of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, not only are you going to have a lot of damn quality on the field, there's also going to be tons of speed on the field. As we've come to find out, Aguero won't be taking part in Tuesday's Champions League opener, which is probably a bigger loss than Marchisio is to Juventus' lineup. But there's still going to be plenty of offensive firepower out there for City going up against a Juventus defense that hasn't exactly looked strong to begin the season.

4. Álvaro Morata or Mario Mandzukic?

This probably wouldn't be an issue if either one looked better than the other to start the season. But because both have looked relatively meh in the opening couple of weeks, it's actually something to think about. Maybe if Allegri goes with a Christmas tree it's going to be a total non-issue. If not, then he has a decision to make. Or does he? I could be reading too much into it all, but if Mandzukic didn't play on Saturday because Allegri wanted him fresh for City on Tuesday, then there's your answer. It wouldn't be the first time Allegri rested somebody who did a bit of traveling during the recent international break

Or, we can just think that Sky Italia is right and it will be the both of them, meaning I just wasted about 150 words trying to make a decision that isn't even there.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Mario Lemina, Hernanes, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic

Yeah, I went there folks. Don't like it, well, you tell 'em, Álvaro.