The last time Juventus stepped onto the Allianz Stadium field for a Champions League group stage game, the vast majority of it was nothing to write home about. It was drab football, with Juventus seemingly on a patch of another disappointing result in Europe before Gonzalo Higuain went from benched superstar to super sub all of a few minutes after coming on.
MATCHDAY— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) October 18, 2017
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That was a few weeks and a few more struggles in Serie A from where we sit today.
Juventus sits tied for second in Group D with Sporting Club Portugal. It just so happens that Sporting are in Turin today for a little matter of their first of back-to-back group stage games against Italy’s Old Lady within the span of the next two weeks. Six points against one of Portugal’s better sides is up for the taking. And, as Max Allegri pointed out during his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon, if his team is able to win on both ends of their Sporting doublheader then a sport in the Champions League knockout round is in the cards.
They have to get there first, of course.
Juventus playing at home in Europe has usually been a good thing. Some of their best performances in recent memory at The Artist Formerly Known As Juventus Stadium have come in the Champions League. But I’m pretty sure that the win over Olympiacos isn’t going to be one that’s filed in that same kind of category. It’s just a hunch I have, so feel free to disagree. (I’m thinking most of you won’t be, though.)
Now we get to see if the Juventus from over the weekend against Lazio carries over into European competition. Or we get to see if there’s a massive sense of urgency from this team and they actually play up to their potential now that they’re starting to get healthy.
I mean, really, it will be so nice to see Miralem Pjanic back in the starting lineup again. It will be so nice to see Pjanic, if he plays, combining with Paulo Dybala once again. And it will be really nice, to see Juventus’ best midfielder back in the swing of things.
Juventus not only need Pjanic back, but they need to start playing like they’re capable of playing. It’s still early, it’s still the middle of October, but there’s only six chances for Juventus to state their case for being a part of the Champions League knockout round. After tonight, half of those chances will be gone — and it’s not like the first two were all that great to begin with.
Let us hope that the first-ever meeting in the Champions League between Juventus and Sporting is a successful one. And maybe, just maybe, Juve can play well, too.
Location: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
Juventus starting XI (4-2-3-1): Buffon; Sturaro, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain
Juventus bench: Szczesny, Douglas Costa, Matuidi, Barzagli, Asamoah, Bentancur, Bernardeschi
Sporting starting XI (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Piccini, Coates, Mathieu, Coentrao; Battaglia, Carvalho; Martins, Bruno Fernandes, Acuna; Dost
Sporting bench: Salin, Silva, Pinto, Cesar, Podence, Palhinha, Doumbia
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