Pressure on Barcelona against Juventus

Indo Asian News Service

Turin, April 10 (IANS) FC Barcelona need to pick up the pieces following their shock 0-2 La Liga defeat away against Malaga on Saturday night as they face Italian football champions Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final here on Tuesday.

Saturday saw Barcelona take to the pitch in Malaga knowing the destiny of the Spanish league title was in their hands as a win in the Rosaleda Stadium and a win away to Real Madrid would have put them in pole position in the title race, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, once again Luis Enrique's squad rotations failed to produce the right result and Barcelona turned in an abject display which means they need to win in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in two weeks and still need help from other sides in order to overtake Madrid.

There will be no rotations against Juventus with Gerard Pique back in defence for Jeremy Mathieu, while Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic will replace Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes, who once again disappointed in Malaga.

There is a question over whether Barcelona will continue with a three-man defence, made up of Samuel Umtiti, Javier Mascherano and Pique and with Sergi Roberto as a wing-back, or whether Jordi Alba will start and Luis Enrique favour a more traditional back four.

However, one thing that is clear is that five-time European champions Barcelona cannot afford a repeat of the 0-4 away defeat they suffered to Paris Saint Germain in the first leg of the Round of 16..

Barcelona were able to recover from that with a record breaking 6-1 triumph in the return leg: the first time a side have ever come back from 4-0 down in the Champions League, but such miracles don't happen against experienced campaigners like Juventus, who boast one of the best defences, having conceded barely twice in this European campaign so far.

Enrique knows that when his side performs, it can be unstoppable; the problem is this season they have not performed enough and a no-show in Turin will just about mean the end of Barcelona's season. But with an attacking line of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, they can obviously hope that the Turin outing will be successful.

Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado said: "We have to be flawless both in attack and defence, like playing in a final. They have some world-class forwards so we must be well-organised, make as few mistakes as possible and capitalise on whatever chances that come our way."

Juventus, playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, have a strong balance. Their attack will be led by Argentine Gonzalo Higuain, who is in top form. Behind him will be Paulo Dybala and he will be flanked by wingers Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado.

Sami Khedira and Miramlem Pjanic will be coach Massimiliano Allegri's preferred midfielders, while the strong backline is expected to feature Alex Sandro, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Dani Alves. Right-back Alves joined Juventus last summer after a trophy-laden eight-year spell at Barcelona. He was also part of the Barcelona team which defeated Juventus in the 2015 Champions League final.

Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is yet to add a Champions League title to his glorious trophy cabinet and the 39-year-old will be hoping to fulfil one of his dreams before his swansong at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Juventus, who won the Champions League for the last time in 1996, will be fired up to end the European title drought.

--IANS

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