Barcelona vs Juventus preview, betting tips and prediction: Baptism of fire for new-look Blaugrana’s Champions League bow

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Draw @ 11/4 with Betfair

Barcelona to win and BTTS @ 5/2 with Betfair

Juventus to win and over 2.5 goals @ 6/1 with Betfair

There are doubts about Barcelona this season that haven’t occurred for years. The club have been all conquering for over a decade now, but a number of factors have called their superiority into question this year. The feeble way they were knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter final stage, to their matchday one opponents, Luis Enrique’s exit and most of all the sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain mean Ernesto Valverde, the new manager, has a lot to do to prove the Blaugrana are still massive players on the European stage.

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Facing Juventus, who reached the final last season before being beaten by Real Madrid, is in a way the perfect challenge but also one Barcelona would much rather have avoided. Beat them, and everything is okay again, but lose and the pressure grows. There have been clear issues within the club for years, but this transition genuinely means that they may be too weak for Juve at the Camp Nou. Ousmane Dembele will have only made one appearance by the time the game comes around, while Luis Suarez is still struggling with a knock. Everything could come down to Lionel Messi, and if Barcelona are to win they could rely on the little genius to pop up with another legendary display.

The worrying thing for Barcelona is that last season, after losing their first leg against Juve 3-0, they couldn’t break them down at home in the return, drawing 0-0. All of the talent they had, that inspired a remarkable comeback in the last 16 against PSG, was not strong enough to break the wall Juve put up; although Leonardo Bonucci has departed, they remain defensively sound, and having lost Neymar, it is not inconceivable that the hosts will not be as potent. Max Allegri will initially look to frustrate, and they are more than good enough to claim a draw. 11/4 is a very good price given the right stake.

But with Messi, Suarez, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain on show, goals are a real possibility. Usually, a high scoring game at Camp Nou would mean only one winner, but their edge could be blunted while Juve have maintained theirs, having proven they can rip through the defence last year. It is unlikely Juve will be overly expansive away from home, but they are definitely great value to come away with something.

Key battle: Alex Sandro vs Nelson Semedo

In last season’s meetings, an underrated aspect of Juventus’ play was how they transitioned from defence into attack through their wingbacks. Losing Dani Alves to PSG is a blow, but Alex Sandro was often the key, springing from his position whenever Juve got the ball, particularly in the second leg.

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Sergi Roberto struggled to contain him, as he and Mario Mandzukic doubled up on the left hand side. Nelson Semedo has impressed in his early days at Barcelona, but he will have a tough evening ahead here. Most teams shrink into themselves and camp in their own half when playing at the Camp Nou, but Sandro offers a counter attacking option and he will be able to utilise the available space to help the likes of Dybala and Miralem Pjanic impact the game. Barcelona’s midfield is not the all powerful beast it was, so Semedo must be alert at fullback.

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