UEFA Europa League returns to action on Thursday as the Massimiliano Allegri-led Juve travels to Lisbon for the return fixture against Sporting Club de Portugal.
The first leg of the quarterfinal tie saw a well-organized Juventus defense get the better of Sporting’s attack. An inspired Federico Gatti was the bedrock of the Bianconeri’s defense line and scored the only goal of Juve’s home fixture.
With six games to go, Sporting sits fourth on the Primeira Liga table, 7 points off a third-placed Braga miles away (11 points) from league leaders Benfica.
In what has been a disappointing season domestically so far, Ruben Amorim’s side picked up some momentum over the last two months. The 11-match unbeaten streak was bought to an unlikely halt, and the Portuguese side now remains an outsider for a UCL spot next season. Their last league fixture saw hero-turned-villain-turned-hero Pedro Goncalves score his penalty late into the match to help his side secure a point.
On the continental turf, Sporting’s highlight of the season has to be the Round of 16 victory over Arsenal courtesy of a “goal of the season” contender free-kick from Pedro Goncalves.
Juventus on the other hand have had one of the most controversial seasons in its history. A UCL group stage exit followed by a point deduction now sees the Bianconeri way off a UCL spot as they currently sit 7th on the points table – nine points adrift of Milan, who occupy the final Champions League place.
Horrible attacking output in recent games has seen Juventus drop points to unlikely foes. Their most recent outing saw Max Allegri’s side lose out to 10th-placed Sassuolo with a scoreline of 0-1. The result now sees Juve on a 9-point deficit from a top-four finish.
Slim chances of a UCL ticket next season call for desperate measures for the Old Lady, who now see the Europa League as their only way in the Champions League next season. If they manage to get past Sporting, either Man United or Sevilla will await the Italians in the semifinal.
Last 5 Games
Juventus have been in worrisome form over the course of a month. The Turin-based club has won two, lost two, and shared the spoils with Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia. Inconsistency up top has been the major area of concern for the fans.
Sporting has had a similar run of form in the past five games, which saw the Lisbon club secure two wins, two draws, and lose out to Juventus in the first leg of the quarterfinal tie. Their most recent outing against Arouca was a 1-1 draw courtesy of a late Pedro Goncalves penalty.
Loss: 0-1 vs Sassuolo
Win: 1-0 vs Sporting CP
Loss: 1-2 vs Lazio
Draw: 1-1 vs Inter Milan
Win: 1-0 vs Hellas Verona
Draw: 1-1 vs Arouca
Loss: 0-1 vs Juventus
Win: 4-3 vs Casa Pia
Draw: 0-0 vs Gil Vicente
Win: 3-0 vs Santa Clara
Injury woes continue for Kaio Jorge as the young Brazilian striker is now being linked for a move away from Turin. Backup right-back Mattia Di Sciglio is doubtful for the fixture, and so is Moise Kean. It remains to be seen if Szczesny returns to the lineup after the Polish were withdrawn from the first leg due to chest pain. Paul Pogba, Federico Chiesa, and Alex Sandro return to availability, but it is unlikely for any of the three to start.
The Sporting camp is quite injury-ridden as Ruben Amorim will enter the return leg without first-choice forward Paulinho, Daniel Braganca, and Cabral at his disposal. Marcus Edwards came down to an illness last weekend and it remains to be seen if the winger makes his return. St. Juste is doubtful for the fixture.
Szczesny (GK), Gatti, Bremer, Danilo, Cuadrado, Rabiot, Locatelli, Fagioli, Kostic, Di Maria, Vlahovic.
Adan (GK), Reis de Lima, Coates, Inacio, Esgaio, Goncalves, Morita, Santos, Trincao, Chermiti, Edwards
Head To Head
The two sides have come face to face on just three occasions and none of them has seen Sporting get one over Juve.
The last encounter between the two, which was the first leg of the tie, ended up 1-0 in favor of Juventus.
The Portuguese giants managed to limit the Old Lady to a 1-1 draw in the group stages of UCL in the 2017/18 season.
Where Will The Game Be Decided?
Juventus have problems up top. The goal-scoring woes continue for Max Allegri’s side as it has been over a month since Juve’s forwards netted more than one goal.
Chiesa’s return could massively bolster the Bianconeri attack but Vlahovic’s disappointing form remains the biggest area of concern for Allegri.
Fans will be looking up to the 34-year-old Angel Di Maria to once again be Juve’s savior. The Argentine has been in sparkling form in recent weeks and will be lurking to secure another over his former teammate and Sporting’s coach, Ruben Amorim.
My quest for first-ever correct prediction continues and Juve’s disjointed attack and poor consistency make this Europa League encounter a tricky one to forecast.
Having secured victories with clean sheets in their last four European outings, the Bianconeri will be riding the wave of confidence entering into the fixture.
On the other hand, O Loeos will be looking to turn their European fortunes around in a must-win matchup against Juventus. Amorim’s men have lost four straight home fixtures on a European night.
With that in mind, despite Juventus’ encouraging form in Europe, we root for Sporting to get something out of the match.
Our Predictions: Juventus 1-1 Sporting CP, Juve advance to the semis on aggregate (2-1).
Juventus to win: 5/2
Sporting to win: 33/25
- By UniBet. At the time of writing
In a clash between two underwhelming sides, the hosts receive the backing of the odds. However, a draw is a more likely outcome offered at a decent price of 9/4 (3.25).
Juventus have not scored over 1.5 goals in their last six matches and even failed to register a goal in the 0-1 loss to Sassuolo. Keeping that in mind, our suggestions are to avoid placing your bets on the possibility of over 2.5 goals.
With a strong possibility of goals occurring, one can also place their bets on both teams to score. Odds from Ladbrokes back this possibility by 19/20 (1.95).
The kickoff whistle blows at 20:00GMT at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. Francois Letexier will serve the refereeing duties for the game. Pol van Boekel will be the Video Assistant Referee.