The Champions League quarterfinals kick off on Tuesday, with Barcelona traveling to visit Juventus in the first leg of their much-anticipated matchup. It's a rematch of 2015's Champions League final, and Juventus are out for payback after their loss to Barcelona two years ago.
What are the keys to this marquee meeting between two of world soccer's most historic teams?
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Max Allegri has to avoid the mistakes PSG made
Paris Saint-Germain played a perfect match in the first leg against Barcelona. They then threw it all away in the second leg by turning away from everything that brough them success in the opening fixture. For Juventus to be successful, boss Massimiliano Allegri has to learn from the mistakes Unai Emery made with his side, and set his team up in a way that pinpoints Barcelona's weaknesses, like PSG did in the first leg. If he has his side sit too far back and let Barcelona play without pressure, they're doomed. They have to press.
Luis Enrique has to get his team selection and tactics right
The first knockout round was a tale of two legs for Barcelona, but especially for Luis Enrique. Enrique saw his team completely torn apart in the first leg, with PSG's midfield especially dominant. Obviously their incredible showing in the second leg overturned the deficit and saw them through, but a repeat performance probably won't end so well for the Blaugrana. With Sergio Busquets out of the first leg due to suspension and Barça's midfield looking all out of sorts lately, Enrique not only has to get his team selection right, he has to set them up in a way that hides their weaknesses and plays to their immense strengths. It's a lot easier said than done.
Juventus have to defend with their lives
Barcelona have their MSN trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, while Juventus have their own answer to that group with their BBC defending cast of Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini. The matchup between these three (with, perhaps, the exception of Barzagli, who's not guaranteed to start) will probably be the most important of the tie. For Juve to be successful, they're going to have to get the performance of a lifetime from everyone on the team defensively, and it starts with those big names in the back.
As good overall as Juventus are, Barcelona have probably the world's best attacking unit, and that means the Bianconeri will probably be playing on the back foot for most of the tie. If they can withstand the pressure, Barcelona have been proven to be incredibly vulnerable on the counter. It's that whole "holding firm" thing that's going to be difficult.
Barcelona's makeshift midfield
Sergio Busquets is suspended for the first leg, and his absence isn't a small miss for the Blaugrana. They have no direct replacement for him (or for Iniesta, really), and when he's not on form, or even worse, out of the team, Barcelona have looked awful this year. Luis Enrique has a huge task figuring out how he's going to set up his midfield, and who's going to play there, and that decision could make or break the entire tie.
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Miralem Pjanic's impact in the middle of the pitch
Max Allegri's switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation didn't just unlock Juventus's attack, it saw Miralem Pjanic really start to settle in the Juve midfield. His ability on the ball has never been in question, but in the base of midfield, often alongside Sami Khedira, Pjanic has shown himself not just to be an attacking threat, but a surprisingly competent two-way player, working just hard on the defensive side of the ball as in possession. Against Barcelona, and especially in Busquets' absence, the onus is on Pjanic to be the heartbeat of Juve. He has to step up.
Live and die by the MSN
The key to stopping Barcelona is fairly simple in theory, if wildly difficult in practice. If Messi, Suarez and Neymar don't get the ball, Barcelona aren't successful.
Shut it all down, we've cracked the code.
It's obviously more complicated than that, but what PSG did well in the first leg against Barcelona was to constrict the space and harass the Blaugrana so effectively that the MSN unit rarely had the ball. When they did, they were surrounded by PSG players, not allowed to create, move, or even really breathe. If any of the three in question are allowed space to do their thing, it's likely to spell danger. Barcelona, despite their weakness in midfield, have to find a way to get their three stars involved early. Juventus? They just have to stop that from happening. Seems simple, right?
Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have to create magic -- and score goals
Gonzalo Higuain was bought for one simple reason: Champions League goals. He's been fantastic all season so far, but it's ties like this against Barcelona that lead to Juventus breaking their transfer record to bring the Argentine to Turin. Alongside Paulo Dybala, Higuain's been absolutely devastating this year, and against Barcelona, the Bianconeri need him to be at his lethal best. He's gained a reputation for squandering some important chances for club and country over the years, but against Barcelona it's a chance for him to put that in the past. For Juventus to have a chance, they need Dybala to be at his mini-Messi best, and for Higuain to be clinical.