Two weeks after a surprisingly easy win at Old Trafford, Juventus welcome Manchester United to Turin in the hopes of finishing off a home-and-away double and securing top spot in Group H. The eternal defending champions of Italy have started this season in their usual commanding form – fourteen games played, thirteen wins and no losses, while their visitors this evening have not quite been on the same path.
In fairness, Jose Mourinho’s side has won three of the last four games domestically, and drawn the other at Chelsea. Last weekend saw them fight back from an early deficit to beat an in-form Bournemouth side, so it looks like the Red Devils have a bit of a run going. However, “beating Bournemouth” momentum and “beating Juventus” momentum are two very different forces, and only the most optimistic United fans would pick them to win here.
Juventus vs Manchester United Prediction: Juventus 2-0 Manchester United
Max Allegri has created in his years at Juventus a side that wins games because every player knows what he should be doing, and does it better than 99% of opponents. It’s a system that works especially well because, if a player gets injured or leaves, there will be an automatic replacement who can step in and do the job equally well. This makes it hard to find a weakness, and unless an opposing side is highly gifted and playing at its peak, Juve will generally win – especially at home. Considering Manchester United had to dig deep to beat Newcastle, you’d fear for the English side here.
Our recommended tip: Dybala to score first
Juventus’ win in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford was narrow, by the game’s only goal, but when the chance fell to Paulo Dybala you instinctively knew it would end up in the net. Seemingly forever doomed to concede the limelight to someone else at Juventus – previously Gonzalo Higuain, now Cristiano Ronaldo – Dybala seems unbothered, and just keeps finding space. While his Portuguese team-mate is favoured by bookies to open the scoring here, Dybala is great value at 21/5 (5.2) with Unibet to repeat the dose he administered a fortnight ago.
These sides had something of a rivalry in the second half of the 1990s, facing off in the group stages of this tournament in both 1996/97 and 1997/98. Perhaps most memorably, they met in the semi-final of the 1998/99 tournament, where after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, United fell behind 2-0 within ten minutes at the Stadio delle Alpi. Goals from Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke pulled the score back to 2-2, giving United a lead on away goals, before a third and decisive finish from Andrew Cole secured United a place in a final they would go on to win.
More recently, of course, Juve own a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, secured by Dybala’s 17th-minute strike.
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Players to watch: Miralem Pjanic & Alexis Sanchez
We’ve already talked about Ronaldo and Dybala, and in all honesty you’ll hear plenty about them if you watch the match with commentary on, so it seems fair to focus on another invaluable member of Juventus’ starting XI. Bosnian midfielder Pjanic is every bit as important to Juve as the aforementioned, with an eye for a pass and the skill to play it. He’s also lethal from set-pieces, and has been described by former Lyon team-mate Juninho as the best dead-ball striker in the world. High praise from a master.
Sanchez is included here for different reasons. Signed in the January transfer window, he was supposed to be the player to spark an often one-paced United attack into a flowing, vibrant system. In 27 games for his current side, though, he’s scored four goals and a suspicion persists that Mourinho doesn’t know where the Chilean best fits into his side. With Romelu Lukaku ruled out by injury, the decision may be made by default here – and if Sanchez starts through the middle, he needs to shine in a game like this.