Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus may have been the form side in Europe the last few months but Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola still believes his side can win the opening leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday.
“Allegri has done a very good job here (at Juventus) and although they didn’t have a great start to the season, we’re up against a Juve side that has just won 15 games in succession (before Friday night’s 0-0 draw at Bologna),” Guardiola told media in Turin on Monday.
“It will be complicated and make for an interesting game, but ideally we’re going out to score some goals and try to win this game so we can then control the return leg in Munich.”
Considered one of the favourites for this year’s title along with Real Madrid and holders Barcelona, Bayern travel to Turin in solid form but with worries over a decimated backline.
A 3-1 win over Darmstadt at the weekend maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, but Bayern have central defensive problems.
Both Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng are sidelined with injury and although Mehdi Benatia is expected to return, he has “no games in his legs”, said Guardiola.
“We don’t have a central defence, that’s the reality. But we have to make do with the players we have,” added the Spaniard, who will leave the club at the end of the season to take over at Manchester City.
It should give Juventus plenty of incentive as they look to repeat their feats of last year when they ousted Real Madrid in the semi-finals only to be outclassed 3-1 by Barcelona in the final.
But when it comes to Bayern, the Old Lady of Turin does not have history on her side.
Bayern are the only foreign team to have beaten Juventus in Turin in the past decade, winning 2-0 home and away on their way to a fifth Champions League trophy in 2013.
Asked if a supposed German ‘inferiority complex’ in relation to the Italy team could be applied at club level, Bayern skipper Philipp Lahm almost laughed into his sleeve when he reminded media of Bayern’s solid form against Juventus in recent years.
“We have beaten Juventus several times over the past seasons in the competition. In fact we’ve only had good experiences against Juventus,” said Lahm.
On one of those occasions, in 2013, current Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored once against the Italians in Turin.
Mandzukic has been sidelined recently but is expected to return to Juventus’ starting line-up fully charged and ready to partner Argentine striker Paulo Dybala.
But the Croatia international can expect no leniency from his former team-mates, according to Arjen Robben.
“This will be an important game for Mario. We’re happy to see him again but we’ll be doing everything to close him down,” said the Dutchman.