The Champions League returns on September 12 and wow, what a way to start! Lionel Messi’s Barcelona welcome last season’s finalists Juventus in a match that is sure to set the tone for another fantastic edition of the competition.
Make no mistake about it: Barca is reeling after the loss of Neymar. It’s a loss in a footballing sense – the Brazilian is an outstanding player, but it is also a kick to the ego of the Catalan giants. Few times, if ever, can they have lost a star man to a rival club when at the peak of their powers.
Their form has not been that great in the past month or so, and so Juventus will eye a real opportunity to pick up an early three points in what could be a key battle to decide who tops Group D.
The Italians romped home in Serie A last term, and they will be looking to go one better in the Champions League after suffering heartache in the final against Real Madrid in 2016/17.
So who is going to claim the early bragging rights? Read Barcelona vs Juventus Predictions to find out!
1. The Bookies Choice
Barcelona are so good when playing in front of their own fans at the Nou Camp that it is hardly surprising the bookmakers have them as a steady favourite with odds of 1.90.
And how the betting tips look for outsiders? Not so bad at all! Juventus are right up there with the best of them at 4.80, and there will certainly be plenty of interest in the draw at 3.85.
2. Where the Money Is
We’ve mentioned Barcelona’s lack of form of late, and while they won their opening La Liga contests against Alaves and Betis by two goals to nil, the last time they played elite opposition was Real Madrid over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup. The end result? A 5-1 demolition to the Galacticos, suggesting that Barca have plenty of work to do to get up to speed this term.
How do you replace a player like Neymar? It’s certainly not easy, and new signing Ousmane Dembele will be hoping to hit the ground running after joining from Borussia Dortmund. He’s certainly got the attributes to be a top player, and there’s no better place to strut your stuff than with Messi and Luis Suarez sharing attacking duties with you.
But the Brazilian’s goals and assists will be missed, and his former teammates must find a way to replace his output.
Both teams will score - Best odds
There are no such problems for Juventus, who have bludgeoned seven goals in their opening pair of Serie A fixtures – 3-0 over Cagliari and 4-2 over Genoa. Their attacking trio of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuaín is as good as any around, but the loss of Leonardo Bonucci to AC Milan simply cannot be overlooked.
This is a tough game to call, particularly this early in the season when all teams are still bedding into the campaign. Ut one thing we do know is that Neymar’s absence is going to hit Barcelona hard, and for that reason – plus the Old Lady’s excellent record in this competition in the past few years – we are going to back Juventus with a +1 handicap at an excellent price of 2.10.
It’s early days, but this contest between Barcelona and Juventus could define how their Champions League group plays out. So who will take the spoils?