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The leaders of La Liga and Serie A meet in a classic Champions League opening clash at the Camp Nou, FC Barcelona looking to take advantage of being at home in order to get an early foothold in Group D.
Lionel Messi’s move to a more central position has paid immediate dividends for Ernesto Valverde, his 38th career hat-trick paving the way for a 5-0 win in the derby at the weekend. The Argentinian will need to be at his very best once more against a strong Juventus side, who ended Barça's European aspirations last season. Losing finalists in Cardiff, the Italians will be keen to continue their own unbeaten start to the 2017/18 campaign.
Sergi Roberto is back after missing the game against Espanyol and he’s joined by Denis Suárez, although Paco Alcácer misses out with gastroenteritis. Arda Turan and Rafinha are still nursing injuries and are unavailable for selection, whilst Vermaelen, Digne and Aleix Vidal are left out by Valverde.
The full squad is as follows: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Semedo, Piqué, Rakitić, Sergio, Denis, A. Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Dembélé, Mascherano, Paulinho, Deulofeu, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes and Umtiti.
Massimiliano Allegri has picked 19 players for the trip to Catalonia. They don’t include defensive stalwart, Giorgio Chiellini, or Mario Mandžukić, both of whom trained normally on Monday but were deemed not fit enough. Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Benedikt Höwedes are also injured and they will stay in Turin alongside Juan Cuadrado, who is ineligible after being sent off in last season’s final.
During his press conference on Monday, Ernesto Valverde noted that Juventus were a “difficult rival” and “very strong in their own league.” Focusing on Barça’s strengths, he added that “we now start a competition that we are very excited about. We’re in a good moment.”
Asked if he would change his approach to the match because of Juve’s notable absentees, Valverde was clear. “No. Absolutely not. I think Juventus have got a good, strong deep squad to cover for those absences.”
Massimiliano Allegri suggested that Juve can’t allow the disappointment of losing last year’s showpiece final to affect them. "Tuesday’s game is the first in the Champions League after last year's disappointment, so we have to start with enthusiasm and desire," he said.
Despite losing Neymar, the coach believes that Barça are still contenders, and his own team are also as capable as any other. "They’ve lost Neymar and replaced him with a young man like Dembélé, but are still today, along with Real Madrid, one of the two strongest teams in the world. Juventus have changed a lot but the team continue to work well.”
Both teams head into this fixture unbeaten and playing well. Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala have each scored five in three league games whilst Barça have the slightly better defence, conceding none so far, compared to two goals against for Juve.
In attack, the Italians have already plundered 10 goals in Serie A, one more than the Blaugrana's LaLiga total. At the weekend, Barça were too good for neighbours Espanyol, winning a one-sided derby 5-0, whilst Juventus strolled to an easy 3-0 home victory over Chievo.
Recent history between the two sides has been relatively equal. Back in April this year, a 3-0 victory for Juve in Turin proved an unassailable lead, Barça managing to restore some pride with a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou in the second leg of the quarterfinal.
Prior to those two games, the Blaugrana raised their fifth Champions League in Berlin in 2015, thanks to goals from Rakitić, Luis Suárez and Neymar, Morata replying for the Italians.
The only other Champions League meeting came in April 2003. Barça managed a creditable daw in Turin thanks to Javier Saviola’s 78th minute equaliser, though they would lose the return 2-1 in extra time. In the nine games between the teams, each have won three, with three more drawn, and both have scored and conceded 10 goals.
FC Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 21 home matches in the competition, and haven’t lost in 11 against Italian sides at the Camp Nou, winning eight since Juventus defeated them in 2003.
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