Judgement day is soon upon us, folks.
The second leg between Juventus and Villarreal in the Champions League is on the horizon and for the Bianconeri, it’s a game they simply cannot lose. Massimiliano Allegri has overseen an unaesthetic resurgence in Turin, and victory on Wednesday night will mark genuine progress from previous years.
Juve have been dumped out at this stage of Europe’s premier club competition in the past two years and with the tie locked at 1-1 heading into the second leg, there are fears of an unwanted three-peat.
Juventus’ predicted XI for UCL round of 16 second leg vs Villarreal
The Old Lady, though, head into the contest after claiming yet another domestic victory at the weekend to stretch their unbeaten run in Serie A to 15 games. Allegri’s side are rolling, and the manager’s poised to welcome back more senior stars from the injury list for the all-important clash.
But will they work their way into the starting XI? Here’s our prediction.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny was at it again on Saturday as he saved his third Serie A penalty in a row. The Polish international was rarely tested in the first leg despite conceding and he’ll be hoping for a similar experience in this one.
Danilo (RB) – Danilo played as a right centre-back in the first leg and he may revert to this function in the latter stages of the second leg if Juve have the lead. However, to start, I suspect the Brazilian will perform a traditional right-back function.
Daniele Rugani (CB) – Giorgio Chiellini is fit once more and expected to make the matchday squad. However, I think Rugani deserves to retain his place in the XI. The fourth-choice defender has barely put a foot wrong in 2022 and he was superb against Sampdoria; defending the box expertly.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – De Ligt was arguably outshone by Rugani at the weekend but that’s no indictment of his performance. The Dutchman was once again stout and he’ll undoubtedly be crucial in keeping Villarreal at bay on Wednesday.
Mattia De Sciglio (LB) – I think Allegri will opt for the stability of De Sciglio in the second leg. The Italian, before his minor injury, had endured a bit of a blip but I don’t believe the manager will trust the streaky Luca Pellegrini. Alex Sandro is an injury doubt.
Juan Cuadrado (RM) – Cuadrado assisted yet another own goal on Saturday and he’s performing his current role expertly. The Colombian’s an invaluable outlet and he’ll perform a de facto wing-back function on Wednesday.
Arthur Melo (CM) – The Brazilian will be key to helping Juve assert control in the second leg. He was excellent at the weekend but undoubtedly aided by a lack of pressure on the ball from Sampdoria. Nevertheless, a repeat performance of Saturday wouldn’t go amiss.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – Like Arthur, Locatelli starred at the Luigi Ferraris. He’s been let off the leash in the last couple of weeks and it’ll be interesting to see how much freedom he’s granted in this one.
Adrien Rabiot (LM) – An apologetic Rabiot was bailed out by Szczesny as the Pole denied Antonio Candreva from the spot following the Frenchman’s handball. Rabiot was pretty assured on Saturday, and I think he’ll retain his spot ahead of the returning Federico Bernardeschi.
Alvaro Morata (ST) – Morata is arguably Juve’s most in-form player heading into the second leg after scoring three times in his last two outings. The Spaniard’s thriving in a different role, and he’ll reunite with new buddy Dusan Vlahovic on Wednesday after excelling alongside Moise Kean at the weekend.
Dusan Vlahovic (ST) – Vlahovic earned a much-deserved rest on Saturday but he still wound up playing an unnecessary 25 minutes. Fortunately, the Serb left Genoa unscathed and he’s now ready to lead Juve’s charge into the Champions League quarter-finals. Vlahovic will fancy himself against the Villarreal defence.