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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Juventus unlikely to let Barca off the hook

La Liga side need another miracle

Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain
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Champions League quarter-final second leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

Barcelona rewrote the Champions League history books with an incredible 6-1 victory over Paris St Germain - becoming the first team in the competition to recover from a 4-0 first leg deficit - but they look unlikely to pull off another miracle recovery against Juventus in their quarter-final second leg at Camp Nou.

The Catalans have won all of their four Champions League home games this season by at least four goals and need to produce another attacking masterclass to ensure safe passage to the semi-finals.

However, recovering a 3-0 deficit against a defensively sound Juventus side looks a tougher proposition than the feat accomplished against PSG last month.

Barcelona performed at a very high level in the second leg against PSG but needed the help of referee Deniz Aytekin, who awarded two penalties – the second of them a poor decision which led to Barca's fifth goal.

Another factor in the fightback was an uncertain performance from PSG, who demonstrated a lack of experience and a lack of belief that they could finish off a side who had eliminated them in 2013 and 2015.

Juventus are made of sterner stuff.

While it could be argued there is no better side than Barca to chase down a deficit it is also true that Juve can usually be relied on to defend a lead.

The Serie A leaders have the best defence in Italy – conceding just 20 goals in 32 league matches. And they have been especially miserly in this season's Champions League – conceding two goals in nine fixtures.

They have not conceded three goals inside regulation time in a Champions League match since losing 3-1 to Barca in the 2015 final in Munich.

Juventus were weakened by the absence of injured centre-back Giorgio Chiellini for the 2015 final but their defence should be at full-strength in Camp Nou with Chiellini set to continue his long-established partnership with Leonardo Bonucci.

Chiellini, Bonucci and veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon have been key planks in a Juventus side who are heading for a sixth successive Scudetto triumph and they could lay the foundation for the club's first Champions League triumph since 1996.

Juve will be determined that Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar will have to work hard for their chances.

But they are also capable on the counter-attack and will relish exploiting the gaps behind an offensive-minded opponent.

The pattern of the second leg could play out very similarly to the first, with Barcelona controlling possession and Juve looking to catch them on the break with the pace of fleet-footed attacker Paulo Dybala.

Dybala starred in the first leg with two well-taken goals and is expected to play despite sustaining a minor ankle injury in Saturday's 2-0 victory at Pescara.

Barca will also have to keep a close eye on Juve top scorer Gonzalo Higuain, who is full of confidence after scoring six goals in his last three Serie A appearances.

An away goal (a 4-11 chance with Hills) looks highly likely and would almost certainly end any realistic hope of Barcelona's progress.

Juve have a healthy margin to protect but are capable of getting the job done in some style and should be backed to extend their unbeaten sequence in the competition to ten games.

Juventus or draw double chance
1pt 8-5 bet365, Betway

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Team news
Rafinha (knee) and Aleix Vidal (ankle) are out and Arda Turan (groin), Jeremy Mathieu (unspecified) are doubts.

Marko Pjaca (knee) is sidelined and Paulo Dybala (ankle) is a doubt.

Key stat
Juventus have lost two of their last 12 Champions League away games.

The Serie A leaders have the best defence in Italy – conceding just 20 goals in 32 league matches
E.W. Terms
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