Thursday 19 January 2017

Bayern's hand strengthened but Guardiola wary of Juve's defensive form

Jamie Holland

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters
Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters

Bayern Munich are confident they have overcome a mini-crisis just in time for their Champions League round of 16 second leg against Juventus tonight as they chase a treble of titles this season.

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After conceding two second-half goals to draw 2-2 in Turin last month, Bayern's near flawless season stuttered again after managing just one point from their previous two league games. They returned to form, however, on Saturday when they crushed Werder Bremen 5-0.

"I think we showed that we are in a very good form. I would say that we are looking towards Wednesday with optimism," Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Bayern, chasing a record fourth consecutive Bundesliga title as well as the German Cup in what is coach Pep Guardiola's last season in charge, are in the driving seat, having scored twice in Italy and Juve need a win or a draw with three goals or more to advance.

Bayern have a perfect home record in the competition this season, having beaten Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal and Olympiakos with an aggregate score of 14-1.

Until their shock 2-1 loss to Mainz 05 two weeks ago, Bayern had won 17 consecutive home games dating back to May, 2015.

With Mario Goetze making his comeback on Saturday after almost five months out and winger Franck Ribery getting much-needed match practice after his own long injury break, Bayern will have more depth than in the first game in Turin.

Treble

But Guardiola warned qualification will not be easy against the Italians, last season's finalists, and also on course for a treble.

"We are playing against one of the best teams in Europe," he said. "They have not conceded a goal in their last 10 league games so expect a very complicated and uncomfortable game."

Juventus are in equally scintillating form, unbeaten in the league since October and having won 18 of their 19 league games since then. Remarkably the Bianconeri have let in only one goal in their 12 Serie A matches this year and kept an unprecedented 10th successive clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Sassuolo Calcio last week.

"It will be a tremendous battle and we go to Munich full of enthusiasm and determination to reach the next round," defender Leonardo Bonucci said. "We are fully aware of how strong Bayern are, but they also possess a few weak points."

It is those weaknesses that Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri will want to exploit with his team looking for their first win in Munich since 2004.

"When we play Bayern, we know we're going to have to run hard for 90 minutes," Allegri said.

Bayern Munich v Juventus, Live, BT Sport 2, 7.45

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