Champions League Tipsheet: This is what Juve bought Ronaldo to do
Juventus went all-in when they signed Cristiano Ronaldo and need him to step-up in Madrid on Wednesday, writes James Horncastle...
"Ronaldo has scored 22 goals in 29 games against Atleti, including a hat-trick in the 2017 semi-final and the winning penalty in the final the year before."
CR7 returns to Madrid
Atletico v Juventus
Live on BT Sport 3
Arguably the game of the round, the stakes are high for two teams who have gone closer than anyone to stopping Real Madrid over the last five years. It's not so much a case of Atleti and Juventus feeling that it's their time. More than it's long overdue.
Atleti are out of the Copa del Rey and look out of the title race in Spain too. Reaching the Champions League final, which will be held at the Wanda Metropolitano, has become their everything.
As for Juventus, the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo means they have gone all-in to end a 23-year drought in this competition. The Italians are in better form and are close to full strength now Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have returned from injury. Some of the best performances of Juventus' season so far have come on the road in the Champions League, away to Valencia and Manchester United. Massimiliano Allegri believes his team need to score on Wednesday night which is easier said than done.
Although Atleti lost their last game at the Wanda against Real Madrid, they are otherwise unbeaten at home and have kept 10 clean sheets in 15 games between La Liga and the Champions League. Saturday's underwhelming performance against second from bottom Rayo Vallecano suggests Atleti are far from their best. But ugly 1-0 wins remain their forte and you can never trust them.
Juventus are instead placing their faith in Ronaldo. His presence alone is a huge psychological advantage for the Old Lady. Ronaldo has scored 22 goals in 29 games against Atleti, including a hat-trick in the 2017 semi-final and the winning penalty in the final the year before. He has scored in four consecutive games for Juventus and is currently Capocannoniere in Serie A. But this is what they bought him for; the big Champions League nights. Juventus are [2.9] to win.
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
Live on BT Sport 2
Bayern are within two points of Dortmund piling the pressure on the league leaders ahead of Monday's game in Nurnberg. But Nico Kovac's side are not convincing enough to inspire confidence in a statement-making performance at Anfield in midweek.
The German champions are playing a brand of football labeled 'retro' by the critics. It is unsophisticated and reliant on moments of individual brilliance, a far cry from Pep Guardiola's vintage. Bayern have yet to keep a clean sheet in 2019 and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer insists the team must "cut out the madness" particularly when they are without the ball if they are win the Bundesliga and progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
As Liverpool put their feet up over the weekend, Bayern needed to twice come from behind to beat struggling Augsburg. The positives to take from the performance include the character the team showed. Special mention must also be given to Kingsley Coman who scored a brace and set up David Alaba's winner.
Bayern hit the front before the hour mark and began to ring the changes, bringing on Thomas Muller and Franck Ribery to keep them sharp for the trip to Merseyside. But the Bavarians, as a whole, need a dramatic improvement if they are to cause a fresh Liverpool team serious problems.
While it's true Robert Lewandowski is the Champions League's current top scorer with eight goals in six games the standard of defending and number of chances he can expect to face at Anfield will be different compared to the confrontations with Ajax, Benfica and AEK Athens. To the Pole's immense credit, exactly half his Champions League goals this season have come on the road.
May he take advantage of some of the uncertainty caused by recent injuries to Liverpool's backline? Trent Alexander-Arnold could be back after coming on as a sub against Bournemouth, solving what has been a problem position without him. The Reds have recorded 10 shut-outs in all competitions at Anfield, including two from three games in the Champions League and are trading @ [2.44] for another clean sheet. Take Liverpool to win @ [2.02].
Trap game for Barca
Lyon v Barcelona
Live on BT Sport 3
Barcelona got back to winning ways on Saturday after a hat-trick of draws against Valencia and Athletic in La Liga and Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey. But the performance left a lot to be desired and offers little reassurance ahead of Tuesday's game in Lyon.
In the end all that separated Barcelona from relegation battling Valladolid at the Camp Nou was a single Lionel Messi penalty. The Argentine No.10 buried one before half-time but missed another and played poorly by his impeccably high standards. The lacklustre display can be put down to heavy rotation with Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Philippe Coutinho, Nelson Semedo and Clement Lenglet all starting the game on the bench. Chances were wasted but there creation was not indicative of a form side.
Barcelona have eight games in 30 days and as such you can understand Ernesto Valverde picking his battles. Lyon coach Bruno Genesio will probably not read too much into Saturday's result other than the fact Barcelona don't have to play well to win.
The worrying thing for the Blaugrana though is that Lyon are not the kind of team you afford an off-day against. The Gones raise their game against the elite. Just ask Pep Guardiola. Lyon took four points from six against Manchester City in the group stage and became the first team to beat PSG this season. They have some of the finest young talent on the continent and have had an extra day to prepare. Reason enough to back Lyon for the win at the Groupama stadium? Genesio's side come in @ [4.7] on the Exchange.
Back Juventus to beat Atletico Madrid @ [2.9]
Back Lyon to beat Barcelona @ [4.7]
Back Liverpool to beat Bayern Munich @ [2.02]