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Pirlo has been the key catalyst for Juventus in the Europa League.
None of the three teams Juventus have faced in the Europa League have been able to clamp down on Andrea Pirlo's masterful passing in the Juve midfield.
Fiorentina came closest, turning the all-Italian round-of-16 matchup into a slugfest. But even then L'Architetto had the last laugh—it was his drilled free kick that provided the difference in the second leg.
You would be hard-pressed to find a player who can unzip a defense with a single pass the way Pirlo does. His skills with long passes and over a dead ball are unparalleled anywhere in the world.
That said, his age has started to affect his game. He is no longer able to create space for himself as he once was. Instead he must rely on fellow midfielders Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio to clear him the space he needs to operate at full power.
If Benfica is able to penetrate this bubble and put a man body-to-body with Pirlo, they will make things 10 times harder for Juve. If Pirlo gets his space, though, he can thoroughly dominate this tie.
If Benfica can reduce Pirlo's effectiveness, the Bianconeri do have another way to set up their attack. Leonardo Bonucci is without question the best ball-playing center-back in the world right now.
His passing ability—especially on long balls—gives Juve a way to bypass the midfield and move the ball into the attacking third if Pirlo can't operate. He is also a threat in front of goal—he has two goals in the last two seasons in European competition, including a crucial winner in the first leg of the quarterfinal.
Defensively, Bonucci continues to make strides. Often the scapegoat for Juve's horrific 2010-11 season, Bonucci is still guilty of the occasional error, but they have been fewer and farther between. Against Lyon—particularly in the second leg—he made several excellent plays to disrupt moves that could otherwise have resulted in dangerous chances for the French side.
He will be a huge part of the back three. Juve fans will hope that his passing abilities play a supplemental role to Pirlo's mastery, but they know they have them available if needed.
Still goalless in Europe since the 2008-09 season, Tevez was still incredibly disruptive against Lyon. It was the Argentine that drew the free kick that Pirlo converted into an early second-leg lead against Lyon, and his constant running parted the defense for his teammates to get their chances.
It would be wonderful for Juve if Tevez could finally break his European slump. Even if he can't, his presence will make it more difficult for Benfica's defenders to keep track of the team's other offensive threats.
Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal (if he plays through his knee injury) and a suddenly in-form Fernando Llorente are all made more dangerous by Tevez's presence on the field.