Before 8:45 p.m. hits and the ball is kicked ff at the Camp Nou, the only Champions League-related thing we’ve seen so far this season involves mini footballs being picked out of large bowls and Francesco Totti shooting everybody a wry smile when Juventus drew Barcelona. That’s it. Everything else has been talk, analysis and predictions.
Now we get to play.
The heavyweight matchup to open the group stage is here. Juventus has made the trip from Italy to Spain and are at the Camp Nou to face Spanish giants Barcelona. They are the two favorites to make it out of Group D and head into the Champions League knockout round when everything is said and done come early-December.
By now, we know just as much about the players who are back in Turin as we do when it comes to the players likely playing against Barcelona tonight.
Claudio Marchisio is injured. Same goes for Giorgio Chiellini, Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira. There’s no Juan Cuadrado because of the stupid, stupid red card he picked up in the Champions League final last June. There’s no Stephan Lichtsteiner because, just like last season, he’s not included in the Champions League group stage squad list.
So, yeah, not exactly how we’d like to see Juventus going into such a big game, even if it’s one of six group stage games over the next two or so months.
But Barcelona aren’t going to stand around and be forgiving because Juve’s entering their group stage opener shorthanded.
It’s the opposite, really.
Barca knows exactly what happened the last time these two played on the European stage. It went well for all of us around here because Paulo Dybala is a wonderful player and Barcelona, despite all of their attacking talent, couldn’t find the back of the net at all. We would love a repeat of that, but Barca don’t. They want to be on the right side of that scoreline, not the same kind of thing that happened in the Champions League quarterfinals last season.
Could that happen again? Maybe.
Could Juventus come away with points tonight against Barcelona? Sure.
One thing is for certain no matter how the next 90 or so minutes end up going: No more talk. It’s time to play.
Location: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Spain; 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 (4-3-3): Buffon; De Sciglio, Barzagli, Benatia, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Douglas Costa, Higuain, Dybala
Juventus bench: Szczęsny, Rugani, Asamoah, Sturaro, Merio, Caligara, Bernardeschi
Barcelona starting XI: 1.Ter Stegen 2.Semedo 3.Piqué 4.Rakitic 5.Sergio 8.A.Iniesta 9.Suárez 10.Messi 11.Dembélé 18.J.Alba 23.Umtit
Barcelona bench: 13.Cillessen 6.Denis 14.Mascherano 15.Paulinho 16.Deulofeu 17.Paco Alcácer 20.Sergi Roberto 21.André Gomes
TV: Fox Sports 2, FOX Deportes (United States); TSN4, RDS 2 (Canada); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD (Italy)
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