Juventus are officially having their best season, in what is a considerable back-catalogue of excellent seasons. The Italian giants are three from three with no goals conceded in the Champions League. Added to that, there is only a single draw blotting their copy book in Serie A.
Despite the excellent results, Massimiliano Allegri has opted for the stick. He panned his players after their 3-1 win over Cagliari.
It’s very much a different story with José Mourinho and Manchester United.
They lie seventh in the league, having dropped points in 45 per cent of their matches so far. Add to that a scoreless draw at home to Valencia and the subsequent 1-0 defeat to Juventus and there’s grounds for cries of crises at Old Trafford.
Scratch a little further and there seems to be green shoots in every respect.
The last number of games have seen two dramatic second half comebacks (Newcastle and Bournemouth), a battling point away to Chelsea, and an improved attacking display against Everton.
Anthony Martial is bang in form, as is Paul Pogba.
Despite evidence of some sort of revival for United, it’s hard to look past Juventus.
Their last meeting was instructive to say the least. Juventus may have only won 1-0 but the away side managed to restrict United to just three shots on goal from within their box. At times, it looked like boys against men.
With over 60 per cent possession, and three times as many chances created, Juventus could have ran up a score at Old Trafford were they more efficient.
This seeming lack of focus is what’s attracting the ire of Allegri. His main concern is a percieved lack of effort in his ranks, possibly worsened by their rightful expectation that they’re now a fairly complete team. A team spear-headed by one Cristiano Ronaldo.
It will require a monumental effort by United to discomfort Juve and Ronaldo. In fact, on reflection, I can’t find another team in better form.
The leading lights from La Liga have dropped points in both Europe and Spain. Manchester City, Liverpool, and the rest in the Premier League are dropping points at home and abroad. Elsewhere Munich are being threatened by Dortmund in a major way, and PSG have already wobbled in the Champions League.
Juventus stand alone in that respect. Imperious at home, unblemished in Europe.
Romelu Lukaku is the headline absentee at United, due to injury according to Mourinho. United will be without Diego Dalot, and this game could come too soon for Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia.
For Juve, Douglas Costa, Moise Kean, and Federico Bernardeschi are all ruled out. Blaise Matuidi may miss out after picking up a knock against Cagliari over the weekend.
Juventus can only get in their own way here. That’s by far the biggest concern when backing them.
United will presumably enter this game with a degree of psychological momentum off the back of recent results and last gasp winners.
Once the Italian champions handle themselves, they should handle United:
Juventus to win 1-0
If, like me, you’ve a niggling feeling Allegri’s side may decide to throw a wobble then this Half Time/Full Time is my shout:
Finally this game is part of Bar One Racing’s Double the Odds First Goalscorer offer this week.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the obvious choice for Juventus. A price of 3/1 would typically put me off for this market, but since the price will be doubled if he gets two, I think it’s well worth getting on. Ronaldo will insist on taking penalies, and possibly free-kicks. His scoring of 120 goals in the competition is the main indicator to be fair.