OK, let’s try this again, shall we?
The situation for Juventus is exactly the same as it was when Manchester United rolled into Turin a couple of weeks ago. To advance to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, all Juventus needs to do is not lose. That looked like what was going to play out for 80 minutes or so against United earlier this month, only to have that whole happy vibe thing thwarted with a closing-minutes meltdown that saw a 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 loss in the span of about five minutes.
And that’s why we’re here.
The loss to United not only prevented Juventus from wrapping up their spot in the Round of 16 come the start of the new year, but also made things in Group H a little closer at the top. Instead of a nice margin between the rest of the pack, there’s now all of two points separating Juventus and second-place Manchester United. With two games to go, it’s still relatively simple for Max Allegri and Co. despite the slip up against United.
The last time we saw Valencia, they hadn’t won a game yet in La Liga. They were hanging out around the relegation zone, with their level of playing resembling more of somebody like a provincial club rather than somebody who was set to open their Champions League campaign at home. Juventus’ visit to Spain was most certainly an eventful one. Let’s revisit it, shall we?
First, there was Juventus’ biggest signing in decades getting sent off in relatively controversial fashion. (I’ll choose to not look back at the BWRAO Twitter mentions during that game.)
Then Juventus, down to 10 men, got a penalty.
Then Juventus, down a man and up 1-0, got another penalty.
And to top off the 2-0 win that Juventus recorded to open up Group H play even though they were down a man, Wojciech Szczesny saved a penalty.
Four different kinds of pictures that essentially recaps how the first time around between Juventus and Valencia all went down. You’re welcome for getting you caught back up to speed since it’s been a couple of months.
The thing is, since Juventus last saw Valencia, the Spanish side has been able to turn things around. As Max Allegri pointed out during his pre-match press conference on Monday, Valencia has lost just once in their last 10 games. They’ve been able to quickly get out of the bottom third of the La Liga table, now sitting a little more comfortably in 11th place as compared to the mid- or lower-teens.
And, because of what happened on Matchday 4 when both Manchester United and Valencia got wins, things in Group H are much, much closer together than they were at the midway point of group stage play.
No, Juve didn’t essentially put the group on ice with a win — or even a draw — against United 2 1⁄2 weeks ago. Instead, there’s now just four points that separates first-place Juventus and third-place Valencia. I don’t know about you all, but seeing that number get even smaller and have that grumpy feeling of Juve not clinching a spot in the Round of 16 is something that I’d much rather not experience for the second straight European game.
Juventus know that they coughed up three points last time out in the Champions League. They know Valencia is in much better form than they were back in September. And they know that all they need is ONE FREAKING POINT if they want to avoid any final day shenanigans when they play Young Boys in two weeks.
Have I mentioned that Juventus needs ONE POINT to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League? I think I have, but I just want to be sure.
The last time Juventus and Valencia played, Federico Bernardeschi was arguably Juve’s best player going in the early weeks of the 2018-19 season.
Now, Bernardeschi is hurt.
1) Juventus closing things out
I mean, seriously.
Can we really just not have the whole advancing in the Champions League come down to the final day of group stage competition?
Come on now, guys.
You know what to do.
2) Paulo Dybala after the weekend of rest
Max Allegri, as is true to the Allegri brand, gave a South American who just played with his national team in South America the weekend off after returning from international duty.
That means when Dybala is (likely) in the starting lineup on Tuesday night playing in Juve’s attacking trident of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic, Dybala will be quite the rested fella (as well as somebody who’s coming off their first international-level goal last week).
The second half of October and the month of November has been good to Dybala, who has shaken off his early-season struggles and found a nice little vein of form. The best part of all of that is that some of Dybala’s best games have come when Juve are playing in the Champions League. There’s obviously the hat trick against Young Boys, but also the goal at Old Trafford and a pretty good showing when United came to Turin.
Dybala’s overall stat line this season isn’t hugely impressive with just six goals in 14 games in all competitions. But the fact that he’s getting better as the season goes on is a sign that he’ll be having more good than bad coming up as the midway point gets closer and closer.
And he’s also rested now.
So we’ve got that going for young Paulo, which is nice.
3) Just how improved is Valencia
Yes, Valencia were something resembling an early-season mess when they hosted Juventus back in early September. That was then, this is now — and the now means that Valencia are an improved team.
That’s what we know on paper.
They’ve only lost once since the last weekend of September. They’ve won four out of their last five games in all competitions. That right there should be the signal that this Valencia team that is rolling into Turin this week are much, much different than the one that Juve saw two months ago.
With Manchester United facing Young Boys on Tuesday, Valencia’s Champions League future this season could very well be determined in about 90 or so minutes of game time. That is enough motivation right there to put forth quite the effort against Group H-leading Juventus, a team that was the better side despite being down a man the last time the two teams faced one another.
Whether they can hand Juventus a second straight disappointing result in the Champions League remains to be seen. And if that happens, Group H is going to be nothing but absolute chaos on the final day of group stage play.
(I don’t want any of that, but it could happen.)
When: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 noon Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: UniMás (United States); Eleven Sports 2 UK (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 3, Sky Sport Arena (Italy)
Online/mobile: B/R Live, Univision Deportes En Vivo, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.