For the last two seasons, this stage of the game has equated to the end of Juventus’ European adventure. It has come under the circumstances in which Juve have been perceived to have a favorable draw, gone out and played relatively uninspiring ball in the first leg and then had to scramble come the return leg — in Turin, no less! — and subsequently faltered.
Look, I don’t need to talk any more about those bad memories.
But the fact is that Juventus, after a first leg in which it scored less than a minute in and then hunkered down for the next 89 minutes, finds itself in another situation in which the Champions League Round of 16 doom could happen again.
Juventus and Villarreal are even at 1-1 heading into Wednesday night’s second leg at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. With the away goal rule still in effect, this tie would be looking rather solid, but because that is no longer a thing Juventus will have to do what they’ve had to do the last two years as well — win ... straight up. Of course, it’s always easier to say that rather than actually go out and do it, and knowing that there is no more away goals rule that means Villarreal is going to come out firing as well. But when you look at how Juventus has maneuvered its way through the last few weeks, there’s at least some reason for optimism.
It might be an absolutely heart attack-inducing kind of night, but it could be a good one.
Juventus, fresh off a 3-1 win over Sampdoria over the weekend, has been able to work its way through this absolute deluge of injuries and actually improve its standing in the Serie A table. No, not all of the performances have been all that special or even memorable outside of the fact that it ended in a win, but the fact remains that so many absences has not resulted in a ton of dropped points.
Does that mean things will be smooth sailing? Well, of course not. Juventus and the Champions League knockout rounds the last handful of years have been, well, a completely unpredictable kind of adventure, one where favorable draws have ended in crushing disappointment and frustration. After eliminations at this point in the game to Lyon and then Porto the last two seasons, simply getting to the knockout rounds isn’t enough anymore. Getting to the round of 16 isn’t the goal. Getting past the round of 16 is it.
(OK, I know I said enough about the past. I mean it this time.)
Since last playing Juventus, Villarreal has won two of its three games, and done in very different kind of fashion. There’s been a 5-1 win and a 1-0 win sandwiched on each side of a 1-0 loss to Osasuna to start out the month of March. Villarreal’s most recent result, the aforementioned 1-0 win over Celta Vigo, came thanks to the same guy who scored the game-tying goal against Juventus in the first leg a few weeks ago — Dani Parejo.
There is also this piece of information from our new blog friends over at Villarreal USA:
Raul Albiol looks to have shaken off his knock to return, meaning the only absentees are the longer term injuries to Alberto Moreno, Paco Alcacer and Ruben Pena.
Moreno, who missed last month’s first leg due to injury, is obviously a huge loss to Villarreal’s attack and will cause Unai Emery to get a little creative with how he shapes his front line. And the catch is if Albiol is on the fence of being 100 percent fit or not, then somebody like Dusan Vlahovic could take full advantage of it with his size, strength and pace up front.
Either way, Juventus will likely have to be better than its performance in the first leg, with the assumption that lightning won’t likely strike twice and have the Bianconeri ahead 1-0 after all of 30-something seconds.
Or, just think of it this way: “It’s a one-off match, and we have one thought in mind — make it to the next round. To do that, (Wednesday) the backing of the fans is important.”
Those are the words of Max Allegri. Every single one of those words are true. It doesn’t matter how Juventus gets to the Champions League quarterfinals, just as long as they get there. This night in mid-March is a season-defining moment. It’s the kind of moment that Juventus has faltered in the last two seasons. We don’t want bad things to come in threes, do we?
- Juventus has the same three long-term injuries: Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Kaio Jorge. All three are out for the rest of the season.
- At his pre-match press conference, Max Allegri said that Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi will all be back for Wednesday night’s match against Villarreal.
- Leonardo Bonucci, however, won’t be called up due to injury.
- Alex Sandro will also miss out due to injury after just returning from injury this past weekend. Allegri said Sandro has a calf issue and is not being risked.
- Also out injured for Wednesday night’s game: Denis Zakaria.
- Dusan Vlahovic will start, according to Allegri. (Well ... duh.)
- “One between Alvaro Morata and Moise Kean will partner (Vlahovic),” said Allegri, which pretty much tells you that Max is planning on rolling out a 4-4-2 against Villarreal.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
What, you were expecting somebody who gave away a penalty over the weekend?
Nah, I don’t think so. Let’s talk about somebody who puts us in a good mood.
Dusan Vlahovic has all of one Champions League outing to his name. Yet, when you look at the kind of players that Juventus has on its roster, Vlahovic is very much the kind of player Allegri is going to look to in these kinds of games.
Translation: Big players need to come up big in big games.
(Say “big” again — I dare you, fool, he says to himself.)
We saw the game-changing kind of impact Vlahovic has all of 33 seconds into the first leg a couple of weeks ago when he stunned just about everybody watching and scored on his very first shot in a Champions League game, becoming the fastest debutant to score a goal in the competition’s history. It wast the kind of statement on the big stage that Juventus was searching for when Vlahovic was initially signed.
And even though he’ played all of one Champions League game, he’s the kind of guy that needs to lead this team to a win. Juventus will need goals because you know that Villarreal is going to attack, and the very fact that Vlahovic barely got involved in the game during the first leg after his goal speaks volumes to how conservative Allegri approached things in Spain.
The second leg, though?
You gotta think that Vlahovic himself is going to want more than what he got in the first leg. More than just the goal, but the sheer volume of involvement is going to have to improve if Juventus wants any chance of advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals.
And if that does happen, you gotta like your chances with a striker like Vlahovic leading the line out there.
When: Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Where: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 4 p.m. Eastern time, 1 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TUDN USA, UniMás (United States); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom).
Streaming: Paramount+, TUDN App, TUDN.com, TUDNxtra, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (United Kingdom); Amazon Prime Video (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.