Juventus’ 2021/22 Champions League campaign continues on Tuesday as they visit Villarreal for the first leg of their round of 16 tie.
Despite succumbing to a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of world champions Chelsea on Matchday 5 of the group stages, Massimiliano Allegri’s plucky Bianconeri were able to top Group H and earn a favourable – he says with the utmost caution – draw in the first knockout round.
We’ve all heard that one before, eh?
Nevertheless, Tuesday night’s already tricky task has been made more difficult by the absences of key stars. A mini injury crisis has struck the Old Lady and they’ll be without Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini among others for the trip west to Iberia.
Juventus’ predicted XI vs Villarreal
Thus, Tuesday’s starting XI will have a makeshift look about it and we expect the boss the revert to the 4-4-2 after deploying a 4-3-3 in recent weeks.
Here’s the team Allegri could pick for the first leg against Villarreal.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny would’ve felt he could’ve done more to deny Andrea Belotti from equalising in the derby, but the Polish international was otherwise commanding on Friday night. That minor blip won’t be enough to see Mattia Perin start on Tuesday.
Mattia De Sciglio (RB) – De Sciglio’s performed better at left-back this season but injuries mean he’ll likely be deployed at right-back in this one.
Danilo (CB) – The Brazilian was suspended for Friday’s derby but he’ll return against Villarreal. The reliable veteran was utilised at centre-back on his first appearance in two months against Sampdoria in January, and he’s expected to be used centrally once again in Spain with Chiellini and Rugani out. Leonardo Bonucci will only be fit enough for the bench.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – De Ligt heads into Tuesday’s continental clash off the back of two stellar performances in Serie A. The Dutchman will be key in ensuring Allegri’s projected plan is a success.
Alex Sandro (LB) – Luca Pellegrini trained on Monday and will likely make the matchday squad after picking up a knee injury on Friday. However, Allegri has placed a lot of faith in Alex Sandro this term and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon despite the Brazilian’s woes.
Juan Cuadrado (RM) – Dybala’s absence is expected to force Allegri to change tack once more. A 4-4-2 is projected and Cuadrado, who started at right-back on Friday, should get the nod in midfield with Allegri’s options limited. He’s a valuable outlet for the Bianconeri but he mustn’t drop too deep in the defensive phase.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – Locatelli’s defensive resolve manifested in the group stages and similar grit will be required in Tuesday’s first leg with Juve poised to hand Villarreal much of the initiative. However, the Italian must attempt to get on the ball as much as he can to aid his side’s build-up and ball progression. Otherwise, Juve will succumb to sustained periods of pressure.
Denis Zakaria (CM) – Zakaria showed flashes of quality against Torino and he deserves to retain his place in the starting XI. On Tuesday, the Swiss international could play a role in which he feels most comfortable.
Weston McKennie (LM) – McKennie has played this selfless role before to a high level. The American’s function in this set-up is a demanding one: he’ll be forced to track the surges of Juan Foyth from right-back while ensuring he remains a threat in transition throughout.
Alvaro Morata (ST) – Morata endured his quietest outing since his role switch in the derby but that shouldn’t deter Allegri from using him on Tuesday. In a side bereft of runners in behind, the Spaniard will play a key role in stretching the Villarreal defence.
Dusan Vlahovic (ST) – Vlahovic’s two recent displays garnered widespread criticism and there’s no doubting that the Serbian striker will struggle to have an influence should Allegri’s pragmatic ideals continue to limit the Bianconeri. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old – who’ll be making his first Champions League appearance – has already struck a healthy relationship with Morata, and the pair could work as a strike duo for the first time. If Vlahovic was wise, he’d peel onto Pau Torres and attempt to dominate him in the air.