The last time Juventus and Sporting were on the same field together, it was nothing that would resemble glorious football that is easy on the eyes. It saw Juventus fall behind in one of the oddest ways that we’ve seen in a decent amount of time, only a vintage Miralem Pjanic free kick and Mario Mandzukic’s diving header in the 83rd minute save Juve from a home disaster on the European stage.
Two weeks later, here we are in Portugal.
And, two weeks after barely beating Sporting at Allianz Stadium, Juventus heads to the Estádio José Alvalade not only looking to replicate the end game of that result with three points in their pocket, but also clinch one of the 16 all-valuable spots in the Champions League knockout round.
That’s what’s at stake not only tonight in Portugal, but when Juve face Barcelona on Nov. 22 and Olympiacos to close out the group stage two weeks after that.
Of course, with how things have developed in Group D, the goal is to not have the results of those two games in November and December determine if Juve will still be in the Champions League come the new year. In a perfect world, Juventus gets a win against Sporting tonight, pulls even with Barcelona in the group next month and then have the final group stage game be for the top spot rather than something else.
That’s when everything goes right.
The only way that is a possibility when Leo Messi and crew roll into Turin for the first time since Paulo Dybala made Barcelona his personal highlight film earlier this calendar year is to have a successful trip to Portugal.
Max Allegri continues to mention that a win over Sporting tonight means that Juve are in the knockout round, so it’s not like the players aren’t aware of what’s at stake going into this one. Just like Barcelona, a spot in the knockout round is in sight. And just like Barcelona, a tough away fixture awaits them tonight.
We will see if Juventus comes close to looking like the team that beat Milan 2-0 over the weekend or the one that had to recover from an own goal for a 2-1 win the last time it was on the same field as Sporting.
There’s only thing left to do now — see which Juventus team shows up.
When the captain speaks, you listen. Now go out and play like you did against Milan on Saturday, Juventus, and I’m thinking that good things will happen once again.
Location: Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal
Kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy; 7:45 p.m. local time in Portugal; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 12:45 p.m. on the West Coast
Juventus starting XI (4-2-3-1): Buffon; De Sciglio, Barzagli, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain
Juventus bench: Szczesny, Marchisio, Douglas Costa, Matuidi, Asamoah, Rugani, Bernardeschi
Sporting starting XI (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Ristovski, Coates, Andre Pinto, Jonathan; Battaglia, Bruno Fernandes, Bruno Cesar; Gelson, Bas Dost, Acuna
Sporting bench: Salin, Podence, Mattheus, Petrovic, Figueiredo, Palhinha, Doumbia
TV: TSN5 (Canada); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD (Italy)
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