Preview: Juventus vs. Benfica

Preview: Juventus vs. Benfica

Amid a run of just one win from six matches, Juventus welcome Champions League Group H rivals Benfica to Turin on Wednesday evening.

While the Bianconeri were beaten by Paris Saint-Germain on the opening night – and subsequently found themselves held at home in a controversial Serie A contest – their visitors have won every one of their games this season and sit top of the Primeira Liga table.

After suffering their first defeat of the season in Paris – where they were undone by a first-half Kylian Mbappe double – Juventus sought a return to winning ways on Sunday evening, as they hosted Salernitana in Serie A’s sixth round.

Facing provincial outsiders, albeit ones who had significantly strengthened their squad over the summer, Juve were expected to post just their third win since kicking off a stuttering 2022-23 campaign, but they came within minutes of losing instead – then the VAR intervened to deny them all three points.

In a chaotic conclusion to proceedings at the Allianz Stadium, the Bianconeri were reduced to nine men – and coach Max Allegri was also sent off – as a brawl broke out after Arkadiusz Milik’s last-minute ‘winner’ was chalked off. Debate continues to rumble on about the legitimacy of that decision.

Four minutes of stoppage time were initially indicated at the end of a game in which Juve had battled back from a two-goal deficit, but ultimately ended in the 102nd minute with the score standing at 2-2.

That leaves Allegri’s men languishing in eighth place domestically before returning to European action, and they cannot afford to slip up again in Group H, with surely just one spot in the last-16 up for grabs between three teams, as PSG potentially sail off into the distance.

Traditionally, though, Juventus have struggled in their meetings with Benfica down the years: winning once and losing four times in six previous matches. The most recent encounter between the clubs came in the 2014 Europa League semi-finals, where the Portuguese side won 2-1 on aggregate, following a goalless draw in Turin.

That outcome, however, represents a rare high in Benfica’s record on the Italian peninsula, where they have lost 10 of their last 12 European fixtures – including all three in the Champions League.

On this occasion, the Eagles arrive in Piedmont on a scintillating run of form at home and abroad, which has seen them claim victory from each and every one of their 11 matches so far this season. Indeed, they have put together 17 consecutive victories stretching back to last term; scoring 47 goals and keeping 10 clean sheets since losing to Porto in May.

After cruising through the Champions League qualifiers with convincing wins over FC Midtjylland and Dynamo Kyiv last month, last week Roger Schmidt’s side swept past Maccabi Haifa on the first day of the group phase, with a home success secured by strikes from Rafa Silva and Alex Grimaldo.

Their first victory on the opening matchday since 2015 followed five straight wins domestically, and they went on to extend their Primeira Liga streak to six by beating Famalicao 1-0 on Saturday – with Rafa Silva once again on the scoresheet.

European champions in 1961 and again in 1962 – but never since, in accordance with Bela Guttmann’s infamous curse – Benfica pushed Liverpool all the way at last season’s quarter-final stage, and having made a positive start this year will fancy their chances of claiming a top-two spot in Group H.

Though still early in the process, their encounters with Juventus are likely to prove decisive in that regard, so Schmidt will be keen for his men to keep their remarkable run rolling into the weekend at least.

Juventus Champions League form:
L
Juventus form (all competitions):
DDWDLD
Benfica Champions League form:
W
Benfica form (all competitions):
WWWWWW

We say: Juventus 1-1 Benfica
Another turgid display from Juventus at the weekend suggests that any improvement will have to wait until their top talents return to the squad, so they will do well to grind out a draw against the high-flying Eagles. The hosts are unlikely to take the game to their visitors either, and may have to settle for a point.

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