Ahead of their eagerly-anticipated UCL clash on MD6 next, La Liga giants Barcelona and Serie A champions Juventus face potentially stiff opposition during their brief return to domestic action on Saturday. Barca travel to sixth-placed Cadiz, after Juventus entertain determined strugglers Torino in the Derby della Mole as they look to close the gap on their title rivals.
Cadiz vs Barcelona: Koeman’s men hope to avoid another wobble
Kick-off time: 8pm BST
Having cruised to a 3-0 Champions League win in Hungary on Wednesday without multiple key players, Barcelona return to La Liga action this weekend.
They face another trip, this time to league newcomers Cadiz, who sit a point and one place above them before kick-off. Will that still be the case after 10pm on Saturday? Or will Ronald Koeman’s men earn another victory as they continue climbing up the standings?
Ousmane Dembele had a goal and assist during his best individual showing in recent memory, as Barcelona eased to a 3-0 win over Ferencvaros.
They’re top of Group G on 15 points and face an intriguing finale against Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus to finish the group stages next Tuesday.
Before then though, they return to Spain’s top-flight with momentum on their mind. They’re already ten points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad – albeit with two games fewer – and were stung 1-0 by title challengers Atletico Madrid on November 21.
Real Madrid’s unconvincing start has prompted many to believe they’re in the running for a big 2021 and looking at the table, it’s easy to understand why.
Cadiz is sixth on 15 points after 11 games and have started the new campaign much better than their fellow newcomers.
Their three defeats have been vs. sides above them: Sevilla, Atletico and most recently Sociedad. They endured an eventful afternoon last week way at Elche, with Álvaro Gimenez’s second-half strike making sure they avoided a fourth loss. Can they start better and spring a surprise here?
It’s doubtful, to say the least. Lionel Messi and first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen are set for recalls into Koeman’s plans, while Griezmann could play a centre-forward role flanked by Dembele and Messi.
Stranger things have happened, but expect goalkeeper Jeremías Ledesma to be busy if the hosts are to earn an encouraging result here – like Getafe and Alaves have done previously.
Final thoughts, predicted line-ups
Barcelona is favourites to prevail here and although Cadiz could prove troublesome, you’d expect they’ll be overwhelmed by Barca’s technical brilliance.
Cadiz: Ledesma; Espino, Mauro, Alcala, Carcelen; Fernandez, Jonsson, Salvi; Perea, Gimenez, Adekanye.
Barcelona: ter Stegen; Alba, Lenglet, Mingueza, Dest; Coutinho, de Jong, Pedri; Dembele, Griezmann, Messi.
JUVENTUS VS TORINO: ronaldo and co target an important win
Kick-off time: 5pm BST
Fresh from their 3-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday, Juventus host strugglers Torino on Saturday as they look to push on after early stagnation in Italy’s top-flight this term.
Andrea Pirlo’s side is six points adrift of leaders Milan after nine matches, while their visitors this weekend seem poised for an unwanted relegation battle, sitting 18th with just six points.
Can Andrea Belotti spearhead them to an unlikely result? Or will it be business as usual for the defending champions here?
It’s easy to forget that Juve are exactly that: defending champions.
Much fanfare has surrounded the two Milan sides, Sassuolo have impressed this term while Napoli and Roma are typically not far behind either.
Plenty has suggested this will finally be the season where Juventus’ dominance is ended by a bullish title contender, but critics have been saying the same for half-a-decade now.
Juve know how to win until it gets to crunch time in the Champions League, it seems. That’s why it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pirlo shuffle the pack ahead of their big clash away at Barcelona next week, hoping to win and finish top of Group G before Christmas.
Federico Chiesa had a goal and assist, Álvaro Morata the same, as they eased to a comfortable victory over their Ukrainian opponents in Turin. Adrien Rabiot and Paulo Dybala – both unused substitutes in midweek – could be recalled to the starting eleven here.
Torino scored first but almost lost in an action-packed second-half against Sampdoria last week.
Soualiho Meite netted a rare goal after captain Belotti scored their opener and had one overruled by VAR review beforehand too.
It goes without saying, they need their talisman on top form and a disciplined defensive display to earn a favourable result here.
Final thoughts, predicted line-ups
Juventus are dominant in this fixture (W15, D2, L1) and unfortunately for Marco Giampaolo’s men, I don’t see that changing this weekend.
Can they shackle Belotti, Simone Verdi and others in their pursuit of a much-needed clean sheet though?