Champions League Tipsheet: Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford
Juventus' minds have been on the Champions League tie with Manchester United since Saturday, and with Cristiano Ronaldo on the scoresheet at the weekend, James Horncastle thinks the Old Lady could have this in the bag...
"Winning this competition and ending a 23-year wait for the trophy is the centre of Juventus' universe this season. How could it be anything else after the €117m signing of Cristiano Ronaldo."
Fear the Old Lady
Manchester United v Juventus
Live on BT Sport 2
Juventus dropped points for the first time at the weekend after a perfect start to the season. Saturday's 1-1 draw with Genoa at the Allianz Stadium came as a bit of a surprise even if Massimiliano Allegri warned that games after the international break are always delicate.
The 51-year-old felt his players' minds were already on Tuesday's visit to Old Trafford for the first of a Champions League double-header against Manchester United. Winning this competition and
The Portuguese was on the scoresheet again at the weekend and is available for selection against United after the ban for the red card he received in Valencia was reduced on appeal.
Juventus made one hell of a statement in that game, dominating away from home and winning 2-0 despite playing more than an hour with a man down. Paulo Dybala scored a hat-trick in Ronaldo's absence against Young Boys and while you can quibble with the opposition it's fair to say the Old Lady has so far met expectation in Europe.
United represent her toughest test so far and it'll be interesting to see how Paul Pogba performs against his old side. But take Juventus to put on another show of strength and prevail at [2.4].
Lopetegui's last stand
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen
Live on BT Sport ESPN
This is a huge week for Julen Lopetegui. It's make or break if he wants to keep his job at the Bernabeu. Saturday's defeat at home to Levante was Real Madrid's fourth in five games. The only silver lining if you can call it that was the European champions actually managed to score, finally bringing an end to a goal drought that was into its eighth hour.
The absence of Cristiano Ronaldo continues to be felt and not just in the penalty area. Games at the Bernabeu are no longer selling out and Madrid are suffering.
In normal circumstances you'd expect them to wipe the floor with Viktoria Plzen. The Czechs certainly weren't up to much last time out against Roma. But Madrid are defending so poorly and confidence is so low that the talent deficit might not matter at the moment.
Los Merengues have had their fair share of bad luck over the course of this barren run. The World Cup has evidently taken it out of a group of players who had already endured a long season. Zinedine Zidane's decision to go out on a high indicated he felt the team could not maintain the performance levels it had achieved over the last five years and needed replenishment, which he perhaps was unconvinced it would get in the transfer market. Look, for instance, at how Madrid sat on the Ronaldo money rather than reinvest it in the team.
You also get the impression that Lopetegui would already be gone had there been an outstanding manager available who fits Florentino Perez's vision of how this team should play. The name Antonio Conte springs to mind but he is still in legal dispute with Chelsea and while there is no debating his credentials, it is questionable how good a fit he would be at the Bernabeu.
In the meantime, Viktoria Plzen live in hope of an upset. Naturally Madrid remain overwhelming favourites and must kickstart their season ahead of the Clasico at the weekend. But in this form, who knows what might happen. Take Plzen on Double Chance at .
No Messi, no party
Barcelona v Inter
Live on BT Sport ESPN
Inter's stoppage time comeback against Tottenham came out of nowhere and had the effect of turning the team's season around. The Nerazzurri haven't looked back since and were particularly impressive in Eindhoven on Matchday 2 when luck and merit combined as they ran out deserving winners but were fortunate not to be down to 10 men when Samir Handanovic handled outside his area.
It means Inter fly to Barcelona on maximum points with a nice cushion on Spurs who have so far got nothing to show for this season in the Champions League. If Luciano Spalletti's side were to take anything from their double header against the Catalans then qualification for the Round of 16 would be very close indeed.
The Nerazzurri's chances appear to have been given a boost by the news Lionel Messi will be out for at least three weeks after fracturing the radius in his right arm. Messi put in one of the Champions League's great performances against Spurs earlier this month and his absence obviously represents a major blow for Barca who still triumphed in a top of the table clash against Sevilla at the weekend.
However, the difficulty Ernesto Valverde's side has in managing games and the shabbiness of some of their defending is certainly cause for Inter to be optimistic this midweek. Goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen kept the Spanish champions in the game on Saturday with some extraordinary saves and the feeling remains that Barcelona can be got at.
The Camp Nou holds great memories for Inter with Jose Mourinho dashing onto the pitch, his finger pointing to the sky and the sprinklers suddenly coming on as he celebrated knocking Barcelona out in the semi-finals in 2010. Back Inter to get a draw here at [4.6].
Back Juventus to Win v Manchester United @ [2.4]
Back Plzen or Draw (Double Chance) v Real Madrid @ [10.0]
Back the Draw in Barcelona v Inter @ [4.6]