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Juventus vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Champions League preview
Juventus host Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk in their first home match in the Champions League since 2009. Both sides come in with a good run of form and are dominating their respective leagues, hence why this encounter is so vital as to who will progress in Group E.
Juve are unbeaten in their last forty-five matches in the Serie A and a major part of that success are their performances at home. They have yet to drop points at the Juventus Stadium this season and have bagged eight goals in three games, including four against Roma last weekend. They’re also the overall leaders in goals scored and have conceded just three times, making them the second best defense behind Napoli. On the flip side, the Bianconeri have allowed an average of 1.5 goals in their last three in the Champions League. Though this is a new and improved Juventus, history and stats don’t lie, but the good news is that at home, it’ll probably be tougher for Shakhtar to score. The key for Juve will be their central midfielders of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Claudio Marchisio, who gave Chelsea a headache two weeks ago.
Despite The Old Lady’s decimation on either end of the ball, Shakhtar will give them a run for their money. The Donetsk based club have won all ten of their Ukrainian Premier League matches and the Super Cup. Just last week they brushed aside their bitter rivals Dynamo Kyiv 4-1, who now lie six points behind the league leaders. Add in the flair from the front four of Shakhtar and the outcome is a dangerous attack. The man to watch for Shakhtar is Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who buried both goals in the 2-0 win against Nordsjaelland on September 19th. Operating in an advanced central midfield role, the Juve midfield and its back three will need to be on full alert when the visitors move forward.
Juventus are expected to name the familiar defensive trifecta of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini. Both Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner were rested in the 0-0 draw against Fiorentina last Tuesday and only Asamoah played against Roma on Saturday, so they should be playing in the left and right wingback role. Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic should get the nods up front, though Giovinco was unimpressive in the 2-2 draw against Chelsea so he’ll have to rebound if he wants to be a regular starter on European matchdays.
Shakhtar will most likely name the same XI they put out against Nordsjaelland. Luiz Adriano should get the start at striker, playing ahead of the aforementioned Mkhitaryan and Willian along with Ilsinho on the wings. Those four will be integral to Shakhtar’s game plan. Chelsea striker Fernando Torres looked isolated running against Juve’s back three. The attacking midfield three will have to expose the flanks and push forward whenever Adriano pushes forward so he isn’t struggling to get past three defenders. They’ll also need to use their speed and counter attacking ability because if the wingbacks and Vidal along with Pirlo come back in time, they’ll have a hard time finding space to move and shoot.
The game itself will be a battle of the Juventus midfield vs the Shakhtar attack. Since Chelsea put out a similar system two weeks ago, it would behoove Shakhtar to watch that game and make sure they man mark Pirlo, watch the runs of Marchisio and stay tight on Vidal, who usually goes under the radar. Also, Juve must continue to get the most out of Vucinic and Giovinco. Juventus have scored fifteen times already this season, even though many doubted their firepower going into the season. If all goes well, Juventus should be able to go into the weekend with their first win in the Champions League thanks to a 2-1 victory.