Barcelona v Juventus
Tuesday December 8, 20:00
Barcelona suffer shock Cadiz loss
Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman said the Blaugrana's 2-1 defeat away at Cadiz on Saturday night was a "huge step back" for the club's La Liga title credentials. It was already the Catalans fourth league loss of the season, and with only 14 points earned from Barca's opening 10 games, marks the side's worst start to a domestic campaign since 1987-88.
Koeman criticised the attitude of his players post-match with the two conceded goals particularly embarrassing and avoidable. Errors from Oscar Mingueza and Marc-Andre ter Stegen epitomised the laboured approach from Barcelona, who have now fallen behind in six of their 10 league games and failed to win any of them (W0-D2-L4) this term.
The Dutch coach said, "The result is difficult to explain. That's not the level I expect from my team. We must improve. We must be more focused. In general, the attitude without the ball was not good." Koeman has tended to rest and refresh his squad for Champions League contests since securing qualification but may opt for a stronger XI with top spot up for grabs.
Juventus earn derby day spoils
Leonardo Bonucci scored a last-minute winner as Juventus came from behind to beat Torino 2-1 in the Derby della Mole on Saturday night. The defender headed in from Juan Cuadrado's cross in the 89th minute to seal top honours for Andrea Pirlo's side, with the Old Lady only levelling the tie 12 minutes earlier through substitute Weston McKennie.
The Bianconeri fell behind early on and failed to many any real impact for over an hour, and came close to conceding multiple goals before eventually turning the tie on its head. Post-match Pirlo recognised his players hadn't performed to expectations but reiterated that Juventus' DNA was to win first and foremost with style and substance debates to follow.
Alvaro Morata, suspended in Serie A, is expected to be recalled in place of Paulo Dybala for Tuesday night's trip. The in-form striker will partner Cristiano Ronaldo in Pirlo's preferred 4-4-2. With Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral injured and unavailable, Matthijs de Lijt and Bonucci will continue to forge a centre-back pairing with Cuadrado continuing at right-back.
Barcelona have gone unbeaten in their last four meetings with Juventus in the Champions League (W2-D2-L0), a sample that includes two triumphs from three in the group-stage of the competition. The Catalans kept clean sheets in all four of those fixtures and have suffered a solitary reverse in three head-to-heads with the Italians at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona 2.1411/10 have arguably been at their best when in continental action this term, succeeding in all five of their group stages matches by an aggregate 16-2. Only eight sides have previously posted a 100% group stage Champions League record - the Blaugrana reaching that landmark only once back in 2002/03 under Louis van Gaal's watch.
Juventus 3.505/2 have earned maximum points in nine of their past 10 Champions League outings at this stage of the competition, the Old Lady's only loss in that sequence coming in the reverse contest on matchday two. The Bianconeri haven't been their usual ruthless selves in Serie A mind, failing to take top honours in exactly half of their domestic duels.
Goals have tended to flow in Group G of the Champions League - eight of 10 matches have crossed the Over 2.5 Goals 1.695/7 barrier as both Barcelona and Juventus have proven far too strong for outsiders Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros, racking up 27 collective goals.
Juventus require a minimum of three goals and victory to secure top spot in the pool and there's a danger that neither side will go close to 100% in pursuit of maximum points with heavy domestic schedules to come before Christmas. With confirmed XIs unknown and rotation possible, I'm going to have a speculative play on the draw at 3.8014/5 quotes.