With just 90 minutes left in the Champions League group stages, Juventus and Bayern Munich are separated by one small point.
The two European giants will be fighting for second place place behind Bordeaux and a spot in the knockout stages in Europe's premier club competition. In their first meeting in September, Juventus were largely unimpressive but came back home with a point in their pocket.
Both teams enter Tuesday's deciding match coming off 2-1 wins at the weekend—Juventus with the huge victory against Inter Milan to keep their Scudetto hopes alive and Bayern beating Borussia Monchengladbach.
There's no doubting that both teams never expected to be in the position they were in considering their history and the squad each team has but the past is the past and there's one game to determine whether they're going to be playing in the Champions League or Europa League come 2010.
1. Can Juve Build Upon the Derby d'Italia Win Against Inter?
Starting this past Saturday, these four days were the most important so far this season.
In the days leading up to the Derby, Juve manager said he wanted 11 Pavel Nedved's on the field against Inter. The Juve that showed up was the Juve of old—a team playing with the determination that made Nedved famous and many people were just waiting to see.
Now the Bianconeri must build on the momentum from the Inter win. So many times teams have come out flat the next time out after a huge win and paid the penalty for it. There is no room for error in this game.
The last time Juventus had a big emotional win, the next game ended in disaster—a wonderful 5-1 thrashing of Sampdoria and then a disastrous second half in a 3-2 loss to Napoli.
It comes down to the same thing we've been saying all year—consistency. It hasn't been there at all and until it is, nobody will ever be completely relaxed in their seat over the course of a game.
A tie will do the job, but the boys have to play for a win. They must have the mentality that they are down a point in the standings, not up one.
2. Can the Nicola Legrottaglie-Fabio Cannavaro Central Partnership Keep Bayern Under Control?
This was originally meant to be about the defense as a whole, but as the Juventus squad list was announced, there was one big absence—Giorgio Chiellini.
Chiellini, who has been nothing but beastly so far this season, will miss the next three weeks after injuring his right thigh in the closing minutes of the Inter game.
That means Nicola Legrottaglie will likely partner with Fabio Cannavaro. It is a combination that we have seen a few times this season and the results have been, well, mixed. They don't really have a lot of chemistry together in the middle and neither of them have the kind of pace that Chiellini does—something Bayern could take advantage of.
Then there is the matter of Gianluigi Buffon possibly also missing the match due to injury. Buffon, who was scheduled to go under the knife after the meeting with Bayern, will be evaluated in the hours leading up to the encounter to see if his bothersome meniscus can hold up one more day.
As hard as it is to believe, there is good news heading into this match. There was a collective sigh of relief from every Juventino when they visited the Juventus web site and saw that Franck Ribery was going to miss Tuesday night's match.
Ribery missing the game is huge, but the Bayern attack is so stacked, they are still amazingly dangerous. Case in point: This weekend, against Borussia Monchengladbach, Mirislov Klose sat, Arjen Robben was basically rested, only playing the final 30 minutes, and they still had plenty of chances to score.
Juventus can't afford to give Bayern the amount of chances they did in Munich. If they do, they might as well book their ticket to the Europa League.
3. Can Juventus Win the Midfield Battle?
On Matchday Two in Munich, the midfield was one of the weak points as Juve struggled to get any kid of possession going.
But as Juve enter the game, Felipe Melo is still struggling with his form (and at times anger) and Mauro Camoranesi has definitely cooled off from where he was earlier on this season. Luckily, Claudio Marchisio is back to full health and his impact was huge against Inter.
The return to the three-man midfield behind trequarista Diego means a more suitable role for those who are starting. If Ferrara chooses to go with a more hard-nosed midfield, Momo Sissoko will get the nod. If the coach decides to go with a more offensive gameplan, Camoranesi will start on the right side of the midfield.
Either way, Juve can't afford to nearly get doubled up with possession numbers like they did in the first meeting. The midfield will have to dictate the pace of the game.
4. Who Starts Alongside Alessandro Del Piero—Amauri or David Trezeguet?
After the 2-1 win against Inter on Saturday, there's no reason for Ferrara to change his formation. The switch back to the 4-3-1-2 was something that needed to happen and it worked with a lot of efficiency.
Squad selection seems pretty simple for Ferrara Tuesday night in Turin other than who will start up top.
The struggles of Amauri have been well-chronicled by just about everybody this season. The Amauri of 2008 has completely disappeared and his evil twin is rearing its ugly head almost every week. He's not playing because Ferrara prefers him to others, but because he has had to with the injuries to Vincenzo Iaquinta and Trezeguet.
But Trezeguet is now back. He didn't appear against Inter on the weekend, but you have to think that if he was called up for such a big match like the Derby always is, he is just about ready to go.
With a spot in the knockout stages on the line, could Ferrara go back to a Del Piero-Trezeguet partnership that has come up a big so many times before in big games?
It might be that time to reignite the magic.
5. For the Love of God, Can Somebody Defend a Set Piece?
This could be included in the defensive aspect of the game, but because it has been so incredibly awful lately, it gets its own concentration area.
Putting it plain and simple, the defending on set pieces has been awful in recent weeks. Not one, but both goals against Bordeaux were off of set pieces and the header from Samuel Eto'o on Saturday night was
In such a huge game like this one is, you can't afford mental letdowns—especially in the back. It's not just on the defense, it's on everybody to stay with their man and not leave Buffon out to hang like he was on the Eto'o.
Buffon can stop nearly everything, but he had no chance against Eto'o.
It's not hard to stay with your man. It's definitely not a piece of cake, but it's definitely not rocket science.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!