The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.
In an intriguing tie we’ll see the Europa League holders Villarreal take on Serie A giants Juventus, who have just bolstered their squad with a £66 million striker in Dusan Vlahovic during January.
Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.
Route to the last 16
La Liga outfit Villarreal were able to secure their path into the knockout stages after pipping Atalanta to the runners-up spot in their group.
Unai Emery’s side suffered defeats home and away to Manchester United, but went undefeated beyond that and had their place confirmed prior to the final group game.
Juventus on the other hand were able to clinch top spot thanks to a 1-0 win over Malmo in their final group game, while Chelsea were held by Zenit.
Max Allegri’s team earned five wins from their six games, but it was a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Thomas Tuchel’s Blues that will give Emery’s side confidence heading into the final game.
Villarreal will be without their top scorer Gerard Moreno for the game, while Francis Coquelin and Ruben Pena will also miss the game. January signing Giovanni Lo Celso is a doubt, while Etienne Capoue is also expected to be racing against time to be available.
Arnaut Danjuma has been one of the stand out players for the Yellow Submarine so far this season, and his performances have seen him ear-marked as the true danger man for Juventus to deal with.
Juventus welcome Vlahovic to Europe’s elite competition for the first time in his career after his big money move from Fiorentina, and he should start.
Paulo Dybala is expected to miss the game, while Federico Chiesa is out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci will miss the game, which will likely see Danilo partner Matthijs De Ligt in the heart of defence.
Breakdown and Prediction
This is a game that will be decided by who plays less badly over the two legs, because neither team are particularly good right now.
Villarreal will be sturdy off the ball with their setup there to contain Juventus and pick them off on the counter with Danjuma’s pace.
Juventus are trying to become a ball dominant side who can sustain attacks and apply constant pressure to their opposition, but they’re in shocking form and really struggling this season.
Neither team have much chance of doing big things in this tournament this season, but in a game likely to be close you’d have to make the assumption that individual quality will make a difference.
Ultimately, the goals of Vlahovic will likely prove vital in this tie and the home tie back in Turin for the second leg should see Juventus qualify – just.
Villarreal 1-1 Juventus
Juventus 2-1 Villarreal
(Juventus to qualify 3-2 on aggregate)