With their qualification to the last 16 of this season’s Champions League secure, Manchester City travel to Turin to face vastly improving Juventus, knowing that a win will guarantee them top-spot in Group D. The Italians need a win to book their place in the knock-out sages.
The Old Lady returns to something like her old self
Another win, their third consecutive against Milan at the weekend, keeps Juventus in touch with the rest of the title hopefuls in Serie A. Now the focus for coach Massimo Allegri and his team turns to Europe and booking their place in the last 16 of the Champions League after the winter break. A real back’s to the wall effort in their last European adventure in Germany against Borussia Monchengladbach (where they escaped with a point after playing the majority of the game with ten men), has put the Italian giants on the brink of a place in the knock-out phase as they aim to reach their second consecutive final. Club captain Giorgio Chiellini, recently told the Italian press that his team were not looking beyond the Christmas break but he, along with his teammates, knows that to book their place in the latter stages of this year’s Champions League with a game to spare, gives them breathing space ahead of a hectic domestic schedule. The best online sports betting sites currently price them at *2.50 to leapfrog their English rivals and win Group D.
Pellegrini looking for improvement after Liverpool hammering
It was a shell-shocked Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini that left his technical area after seeing his side thumped 1-4 at home by Liverpool on Saturday. The Chilean tactician declared after the game that he was unable to explain his side’s woeful display and he will be glad to escape to Italy to focus on a game where, having already qualified for the next stage has relieved some of the pressure on his players. Last time out in this competition, the Citizens destroyed Sevilla in Southern Spain but they will be expecting a much tougher test at the J Stadium, against a team that has already beaten them in this year’s competition.
Having been sent off in Monchengladbach on matchday four, Brazilian midfielder Hernanes is suspended for the visit of the Premier League side. He will also miss the next three weeks of the campaign after picking up a thigh injury in the victory over Milan on Saturday. Other casualties for Juventus include midfielders Roberto Pereyra and Sami Khedira, whilst Uruguayan full-back Martin Cáceres is also extremely doubtful. French defender Patrice Evra is struggling for fitness after he picked up an ankle injury at the weekend. In-form striker Paulo Dybala (priced at *6.50 on the best football betting guides to be first goalscorer) is set to lead the line once again for Allegri’s team.
Manchester City’s big worry ahead of Wednesday is the calf injury to captain Vincent Kompany which kept him out of Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool. It seems unlikely that the Belgian international will recover in time for the trip to Turin and his place could be taken by Martin Demichelis, who will partner fellow Argentine Nicolás Otamendi in the centre of defence. Frenchman Samir Nasri is out until February after undergoing surgery to cure a hamstring injury with striker Wilfred Bony also sidelined by the same problem. Spanish playmaker David Silva is still not ready to return to the squad after his lay-off due to an ankle problem.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Juventus (4-4-2) Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Chiellini, Sandro; Sturaro, Marchisio, Pogba, Cuadrado; Morata, Dybala
Manchester City (4-5-1) Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov; Toure, Fernando; Navas, De Bruyne, Sterling; Aguero
HEAD TO HEAD
In five previous meetings between the two sides, Juventus have the upper hand. Wednesday’s visitors haven’t beaten the Bianconeri since 1976 when the two met in the old UEFA Cup. On matchday one, the Italians won 2-1 at the Etihad thanks to goals from Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata.
Juventus 2.25 Draw 3.40 Manchester City 3.50
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)