x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Uefa Champions League: Juventus may take cautious approach against Bayern's battering attack

The Italian leaders face the German table toppers in the first leg in an Allianz Arena where the nets are still rippling from Saturday's 9-2 demolition of Hamburg, writes Ian Hawkey.

Claudio Pizarro, right, is unlikley to even make the substitutes' bench tonight against Juventus despite scoring four goals in a 9-2 win over Hamburg on Saturday, illustrating the club's attacking depth. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
Claudio Pizarro, right, is unlikley to even make the substitutes' bench tonight against Juventus despite scoring four goals in a 9-2 win over Hamburg on Saturday, illustrating the club's attacking depth. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

What would Juventus give for a third-choice striker like Bayern Munich's Claudio Pizarro?

On Saturday, the Peruvian veteran scored four goals against Hamburg. Four other Bayern players contributed another five in the battering of an opponent strong enough to be aspiring to a place in Europe next season. The starting XI for Bayern included none of the four leading scorers from the club's record-breaking league campaign, nor either of the best two providers of assists.

Bayern had rested a number of key men at the weekend, knowing that the domestic title will almost certainly be collected in the next two weeks - they lead second-placed Borussia Dortmund by 20 points in the Bundesliga - and that the meeting with Juventus tonight held clear priority in terms of preserving freshness.

So without Mario Mandzukic, their main marksman of 2012/13, or Mario Gomez, their prolific hit man, or Thomas Muller, who on average can be relied on to score or set up at least one goal every game, and with Franck Ribery joining the party only as a late substitute, they won 9-2.

It was a scoreline to take some digesting for Antonio Conte, the coach of a Juventus preparing for their first Uefa Champions League quarter-final for seven years, with the first leg in an Allianz Arena where the nets are still rippling from Saturday's exhibition.

Pizarro is not even guaranteed a place on the substitutes bench. In the face of the Bayern juggernaut, Conte, understandably, is contemplating a conservative formation, with a single out-and-out striker, probably Mirko Vucinic, from a pool of forwards of whom none has reached double-figures this term, and concentrate on the deployment of resources in midfield.

Bayern-Juventus looked the most captivating tie of the quarter-finals: two clubs boasting the highest number of domestic titles in two outstanding football nations; a duel between the comfortable leaders of their leagues. Bayern and Juventus share other traits, including a powerful sense of unrequited ambition in Europe's major competition.

For Bayern it is especially fresh. Last season's defeat, in their own stadium, on penalties in the final against underdogs Chelsea, hurts still. Add it to the crushing reverse suffered in the 1999 final - Bayern leading 1-0 in the 89th minute against Manchester United, defeated 2-1 by full time - and you understand the symptoms of neurosis that easily flare up around the Champions League within Bayern.

Meanwhile, Juve's status among the grandees of the game has long been compromised by their scant record of European Cup triumphs. The 1985 trophy, their first of two, is stained by the tragic circumstances of the Heysel Stadium disaster, and the loss of life that made events on the field in that final against Liverpool seem horribly irrelevant. Victory in 1996 would be followed by successive defeats in the finals of 1997 and 1998.

Like Bayern, Juve's most recent appearance in a final ended with a loss via shoot-out, to AC Milan a decade ago.

"We played textbook football against Hamburg," said Bayern's coach, Jupp Heynckes, "but the circumstances against Juventus will be very different. They will show much more aggression against us."

But there will be caution, too.

Nine goals may be a rarity for Bayern over 90 minutes, but they have already blitzed Lille (five goals up after 30 minutes) and Arsenal (2-0 up, away, after 20) in Europe this season.

Conte's priority will be to prevent Juventus suffering a start like that.

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