Reigning Italian champions Juventus will take on the likely German champions Bayern Munich in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal this week.
Bayern have been a particularly strong force throughout world football this year—dominating domestically and seemingly cruising through the European competition—with their gritty defense and plethora of attacking options making for a very potent team indeed.
The Old Lady, however, certainly won't be daunted by the trip to Bavaria, having performed very well themselves throughout the 2012-13 season.
They appear likely to repeat their Serie A success with another domestic title, and showed a ruthlessness against Celtic in the Champions League Round of 16 to suggest that they can indeed threaten the German giants in their own backyard.
Either way, it's shaping as a memorable fixture indeed that's likely to provide plenty of highlights, talking points and learning points for both teams.
Who will emerge triumphant from this key quarterfinal? Read on for a full preview including all the necessary details, analysis and predictions in this one.
Date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Start time: 2:45 p.m. ET (Eastern time)
Venue: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Live Stream: SiriusXM FC, Fox Soccer 2Go, MSG Plus, Fox Sports Net,
As mentioned, Bayern Munich have been on an absolute tear lately—dominating whoever attempts to try and stop their lethal attack from getting forward.
The Bavarian club haven't lost a single game in the Bundesliga since the start of 2013, with their most recent encounter a 9-2 drubbing of Hamburger SV. And that wasn't even with their full starting squad—showing just how capable this side is of scoring goals.
Their Champions League Round of 16 fixture showed both sides of the Germans, with a thrilling 3-1 performance in London to beat Arsenal in the opening leg coupled with a shock 2-0 loss that almost saw the Gunners pull off one of the more incredible upsets in recent years.
Bayern did have their chances to score in that second leg, and were found guilty of simply trying to defend their big lead, but the loss still came as a big shock.
And it will be interesting to see how that stacks up against Juventus, who have been one of the more disciplined and organized teams this year.
After mixed results through 2013 so far, the reigning Italian champions have again recorded three wins in a row domestically—beating Catania 1-0 at home before chalking up impressive road wins over Bologna and Inter Milan respectively. They'll certainly need that away form to come to the fore here as they attempt to stop the German giants in their own backyard.
Juve cruised to victory in their Round of 16 clash against Celtic, but their opposition is significantly tougher here and it should be much closer than before.
Key Player to Watch: Thomas Muller, FW, Bayern Munich
With a number of brilliant players in Bayern Munich's starting lineup, there isn't a clear key player to watch against Juventus. However, having said that, attacking star Thomas Muller has been very strong for the Bavarians so far this year and must be watched closely in this one.
Playing out on the right wing, Muller has netted 16 goals and 10 assists for Bayern this year in his 27 appearances, and has combined well with the strikers and central midfielders around him.
He is averaging over 2.1 goal scoring opportunities created per game, and will likely prove a big attacking threat here for the Old Lady to deal with. Especially when the attacker himself is not at all fazed by playing the Italian champions (via Forza Italian Football):
There is no fear of Juventus. The Italians will be a tricky opponent, but we are not in awe of them. Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic are excellent, but we also have players with great quality. We should also not forget that we have done very well in recent games against them.
Three Stats to Consider
3. Of their last 19 games played at the Allianz Arena in the UEFA Champions League, Bayern Munich have only not tasted victory in three of those games.
0. Juventus is yet to be beaten in the 2013 Champions League so far.
4. Juventus also have the best defensive record in the Champions League, conceding just four goals in their eight games so far. Moreover, they haven't conceded a goal in their last five outings, which is the longest run in the competition this season.
Bayern Munich will head into this one again as big favorites, but the reality is that Juventus are an incredibly tough and talented football team.
Beating Hamburger 9-2 will have affect on how the Old Lady plays here, for the Italians will no doubt bring their usual guile and trickery to the table. Moreover, it's hard to see them being beaten on the counterattack which Bayern loves so much given the way they set up defensively.
With Bayern's tough defense conceding goals in their last four games, big questions have to remain about whether the Germans are the huge threat they appeared to be after their 3-1 win in London.
They are no doubt talented and strong, but Juventus seem to be flying under the radar here a little, and will no doubt be much tougher than the Bavarians expect. Juve are tougher defensively than Bayern of late, and have combinations in their midfield that are capable of breaking open any defense—even the defense widely considered the current best in world football.
Goals will be hard to come by here, and after a scoreless first half, I think Juve may just shock their opponents with some magical passing and create a key opening—one that is taken to full advantage by the away side as they chalk up a 1-0 lead.
And once they have the lead, don't expect Juventus to throw it away, as they hang on for the 1-0 win away from home and give another big UCL upset.
It won't be a huge lead heading into the second leg, but it will be a lead nonetheless. And it will be lead that proves Juve are real contenders for the title this season.
Final score: Bayern Munich 0, Juventus 1
Comment your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre