Pep Guardiola’s makeshift defence is set to face its sternest test yet, as the German champions Bayern Munich travel to face their Italian counterparts Juventus in their UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg match.
An injury crisis has seen four of Bayern’s centre-backs ruled out, meaning Serdar Tasci, a recent signing from Spartak Moscow, is the only available natural in that position. The former Stuttgart man is likely to be partnered by left-back David Alaba in Turin on Tuesday.
To add to Guardiola’s nightmare, Juve possess the threat of Mario Mandzukic, with the Croatia international being one of the best strikers in the air on the continent.
The added twist comes that, after the forward won the Champions League with Bayern in 2013, he fell out with the next Manchester City boss, who used him far more sparingly than the manager who coached the German outfit to European glory, Jupp Heynckes.
Despite Bayern completely outclassing the Old Lady 4-0 on aggregate on their way to European glory three years ago, Juventus are a totally different proposition now, and made the final last season, only to lose to Barcelona.
The Bundesliga leaders will still feel confident going into Tuesday’s game however, and former Juve talisman Arturo Vidal is likely to start in the German side’s midfield, with the Chilean adding steel to a team that includes the attacking trio of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben.
With Guardiola leaving Bavaria for his new challenge in England in the summer, the Spaniard will be desperate to win Europe’s premier competition before he departs, especially as his predecessor Heynckes also won it in his final season.
A good result in Turin for Bayern may just see a repeat of 2013, for both the club and the outgoing manager.
Former Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic and Germany international midfielder Sami Khedira have both passed fitness tests to play. However, the Old Lady are still without important defender Giorgio Chiellini because of a thigh injury.
The visitors are likely to have little sympathy for Juventus however, as injuries to Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez means that the diminutive David Alaba could play as a makeshift centre-back alongside Serdar Tasci. The injury crisis could be eased for the German champions if another currently crocked defender, Medhi Benatia, makes a return tonight.
League Position: Juventus – 1st (Serie A – 58 pts); Bayern – 1st (Bundesliga – 59 pts)
Previous Meeting: Juventus 0-2 Bayern (April 10, 2013)
Form: Juventus – WWWWWD; Bayern – WWDWWW
Key Men: Juventus – Mario Mandzukic; Bayern – Robert Lewandowski
Shoot Says: Juventus 1-2 Bayern