Juventus will look to snap their early season slump when they welcome Benfica to Allianz Stadium in a UEFA Champions League Group H fixture on Wednesday night.

Juventus have won only one of their last six games in all competitions and are on a three-game winless streak ahead of their Champions League clash with Benfica on Wednesday. They are, however, undefeated at home this season and will try to capitalise on their home advantage this mid-week.

Juventus dropped more points domestically at the weekend in a hugely controversial draw with Salernitana as they were denied a last-gasp winner when Arkadiusz Milik’s stoppage-time goal was unjustly ruled out for offside.

However, it must not be forgotten that Juventus were 2-0 down to mid-table Salernitana before their comeback in Campania. The result left Juventus in eighth place in the Serie A standings. The Turin giants are unbeaten in the league, winning two games and drawing four, but lost their Champions League opener 2-1 away to Paris Saint-Germain.

The Old Lady are still untrustworthy against capable European opposition, as shown by their 4-0 at the hands of Chelsea in their group stage clash last year before being knocked out by Villarreal in the last 16 of the competition.

Juve’s football has consistently been stale and unimaginative this season under Massimiliano Allegri, and their outdated style of play could be countered well by a dynamic Benfica side in Turin on Wednesday.

The Eagles have carried on from where they left off in the Champions League last season. They finished second in a group that featured Bayern Munich and Barcelona and knocked Ajax out in the last-16 before drawing 3-3 with Liverpool in the second leg of the quarter-finals.

Now, under the tutelage of Roger Schmidt, the Eagles have made an unassailable start to the campaign. They have a 100% win record across all boards this season and are sitting two points clear at the top of the pile in the Primeira Liga. Indeed, they won all four of their UEFA Champions League qualifying games this term, as well as their Group H opener against Maccabi Haifa in a very comfortable fashion.

Team News & Tactics

Juventus

Juventus’ campaign has been plagued by injury problems, with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Paul Pogba, Wojciech Szczesny, and Federico Chiesa already missing a big chunk of the season. The quartet are among the first-team players ruled out for the hosts’ clash against Benfica.

Manuel Locatelli and Adrien Rabiot both missed out at the weekend and remain doubts for Massimiliano Allegri’s side here. Both Juan Cuadrado and Arkadiusz Milik were sent off in Juventus’ heated encounter against Salernitana on Sunday night, but their suspension term is only applicable in Serie A, so they will be available for selection here.

Allegri could stick with the same 3-5-2 formation that he deployed against PSG, with defensive resilience and set-piece opportunities at the core of their playing style, and is likely to name a similar starting XI that took to the field on that day.

Mattia Perin will continue in goal for the Bianconeri. The Italian goalkeeper will be protected by the usual three-man central defensive unit comprising Danilo, Leonardo Bonucci, and summer recruit Gleison Bremer. Juventus have not been great defensively since the beginning of the season, making unforced errors and conceding some cheap goals.

Up ahead in midfield, the highly-energetic Fabio Miretti has shown a lot of promise since breaking into the senior side last season. The teenager is a pressing machine, combative, and rugged off the ball, but has also shown that he has the qualities to hurt the opposition in the blink of an eye. With his passing skills and smart movement, he will look to cause problems for the Benfica rearguard.

Leandro Paredes will anchor the midfield, while Weston McKennie will be another buzzing box-to-box presence from the middle of the park.

The width in attack will come from the wing-back duo of Filip Kostic and Juan Cuadrado, who will be given the license to maraud forward to overload the middle of the park and provide quality deliveries into the box to feed the towering strike force of Dusan Vlahovic and Arkadiusz Milik.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Perin; Bremer, Bonucci, Danilo; Cuadrado, McKennie, Paredes, Miretti, Kostic; Vlahovic, Milik 

Benfica

Benfica will remain without the services of Lucas Verissimo, Joao Victor, and Felipe Morato, with the defensive trio, ruled out for the mid-week trip to Turin due to respective injury issues.

It is no secret that new boss Roger Schmidt has implemented his Red Bull footballing philosophy on the Eagles. The former PSV Eindhoven boss enjoys his teams’ playing with an intense pressing style and a high tempo.

This season, Schmidt has opted to play a 4-2-3-1 formation. They have a ball-playing goalkeeper in Odysseas Vlachodimos, usually guarded by a fairly solid central defensive pairing of Antonio Silva and Nicolas Otamendi.

Their full-backs, Alex Grimaldo and Alexander Bah, are heavily involved in build-up play and quick attacking transitions, with both boasting an impressive technique and vision to make plays from deep or put high-quality crosses into the box. The full-back duo are not hesitant about advancing forwards either and are dead-ball specialists.

Enzo Fernandez and Florentino Luis will have the onus on them to keep things tight in the middle of the park while facilitating smooth transitions. The two wide attackers, likely to be Joao Mario and David Neres, will look to stretch the Juve backline, with the latter quick on half turns and a direct dribbler.

Julian Draxler was taken off at half-time on his Benfica debut at the weekend, so he could be another option available on the bench as an impact sub. They are quick to progress the ball into attacking areas. This allows them to create clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities.

This, alongside the red-hot scoring form of Rafa Silva, who has become a major goal threat for Benfica from his position behind the club’s top-scorer, Goncalo Ramos, they have enough quality to find the back of the net.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vlachodimos; Bah, Otamendi, A. Silva, Grimaldo; Luis, Fernandez; Neres, R. Silva, Mario; Ramos

Key Stats

  • Benfica have won their last 5 Champions League games, keeping a clean sheet in each of their last 3 encounters.
  • Benfica have never lost to Juventus, claiming one win and three draws from four previous meetings.
  • The visitors have drawn four of their last eight Champions League games on the road, three of them were scoreless draws.
  • Juventus have only lost two of their last nine home Champions League games.
  • Benfica have lost 10 of their last 12 games against Italian sides in all competitions (W1, D1), while Juventus have lost only one of their nine home games against Portuguese sides in European competitions (W7, D1).

Player to Watch

Dusan Vlahovic

Embed from Getty Images

Despite Juventus’ current struggles, Dusan Vlahovic has had a strong start to the season, and his impressive displays have kind of papered over the cracks. The Serbian striker has found the net four times already and could be backed to get on the score sheet here, with delicious crosses from Filip Kostic and Juan Cuadrado flying in from both flanks. That said, with two of his goals have been spectacular free-kicks, he has been starved of any sufficient service in recent games, with an inhibited Juventus opting to cross their way to victory.

Prediction

Juventus 1-1 Benfica

While Juventus were denied a dramatic late winner against Salernitana, Allegri’s side were abysmal and clueless in attack, to say the least. The wily traditionalist has refused to change his pragmatic ways despite having plenty of opportunities to adopt a more proactive and modern approach for sustained success.

There is a valid argument that the Bianconeri have gone a step back from where they were before his appointment due to the sheer lack of progression made under his tutelage. There is no denying that they are missing their creative players, but there are no patterns of play or inventive methods of chance creation.

In addition to all of this, the Serie A giants have also struggled defensively, and have fallen behind in their last two matches. Benfica have impressed so far this season and have the talent to exploit the Turin outfit’s issues. Juventus have drawn four of their last six games now, and both sides have plenty of quality in the striking department, so a low-scoring draw could well be on the cards here.

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