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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Juventus trip too tough for poor travellers Barcelona

Back powerful hosts to claim crucial win in Turin

Gonzalo Higuain is a major threat for Juventus
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Champions League quarter-final first leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Tuesday

Barcelona staged an incredible fightback after losing 4-0 to Paris St-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and the Catalans may well have to overturn another deficit against Juventus in the quarter-finals.

A trip to take on Juve in Turin is one of the toughest assignments in European football and Barca's troubles away from home mean they are well worth opposing in the first leg.

Luis Enrique's men lost 3-1 at Manchester City in the group stage before their drubbing at PSG and their woes on the road have continued with La Liga defeats at lowly Deportivo La Coruna and, on Saturday, Malaga.

A petulant Neymar was sent off during the 2-0 weekend defeat in Andalusia and Sergio Busquets, another of Barcelona's hotheads, is suspended for the first leg of the Juventus tie.

Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic should be restored to the starting 11 in Turin but the absence of niggly midfielder Busquets could further expose a vulnerable Barca defence and Juventus have the attacking players to gain a much-needed first-leg lead.

Juve may not run riot in the way PSG did - the 4-0 home win is an 80-1 shot if any punters expect a repeat of Barca's Paris debacle - but there is certainly juice in their match odds.

Their home form in Serie A is impeccable, with 16 wins out of 16 and a goal difference of +32, while they eased past Porto in the first knockout stage.

Juve's 3-0 aggregate win over the Portuguese side made it just two goals conceded in eight Champions League games this season.

Clearly, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez represent the ultimate test for any defence but Juventus, on their own patch, are capable of frustrating the superstar trio.

The Italian champions knocked out Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid on their way to a final defeat to Barca in 2014-15 - winning the home leg in all three of those ties - and they came agonisingly close to eliminating Bayern Munich last season.

There is a more powerful look to their attacking unit this season with prolific centre-forward Gonzalo Higuain - no fan of Barca given his years at Real Madrid - supported by pacy pair Paolo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado, and the rugged Mario Mandzukic.

That gives Juve a multi-faceted attacking threat which, combined with their rock-solid defence and streetwise midfield, could leave Barcelona needing another Camp Nou comeback in order to reach the semi-finals.

2pts 17-10 Hills

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Team news

Mario Mandzukic should be fit after missing Juve's last two matches with a knee injury. Forward Marco Pjaca is sidelined. 

Sergio Busquets is suspended and Rafinha faces a long spell on the sidelines after knee surgery. Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are also out so youngsters Carles Alena and Carbonell are in the travelling party.

Key stat
Juventus have conceded two goals in eight Champions League matches this season.

Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez represent the ultimate test for any defence but Juventus are capable of frustrating the superstar trio
E.W. Terms
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