In one of the most highly-anticipated matches of the season, Lionel Messi’s Barcelona face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday (8:00 PM kick-off, UK time).
With 15 and 12 points respectively, both sides have already qualified for the knockout rounds of European football’s most prestigious competition after cruising through the group stages. Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros are both stuck on just one point and will battle it out for a place in the Europa League.
At stake when Barcelona host Juventus, technically, is top spot. Should Juventus win and go level on points, head-to-head goal difference will decide who gets the more favourable, technically, last-16 draw. Barca beat Juve 2-0 in Turin, so to achieve this the Old Lady will have to score at least three times.
Despite the tall order, the eyes of the footballing world are likely to be fixed upon these two giants of the game. Barcelona and Juventus have mopped up trophy after trophy over the last couple of decades and throughout their entire existence any clash between these two would be a tantalising prospect under normal circumstances.
Throw Messi and Ronaldo — most people’s picks for the two greatest players of all time and combined 11-time Ballon d’Or winners — facing each other for the first time since the latter left Real Madrid in 2018 into the mix and you have the perfect recipe for a Champions League classic.
Can Messi enjoy more continental success over his old adversary? Or will Ronaldo overcome his European hoodoo against Barca to inspire Juventus to a famous victory?
Barcelona vs Juventus odds with William Hill:
- Barca – 11/10
- Draw – 13/5
- Juve – 12/5
Where to watch Barcelona vs Juventus on TV:
- UK: BT Sport ESPN
- US: TUDN
Where to live stream Barcelona vs Juventus:
UK: Subscribers in the UK can stream the game live via the BT Sport app.
US: Audiences in the United States can stream Barcelona vs Juventus live with Fubo TV.
Barcelona & Juventus’s previous line-ups:
- Barcelona (vs Cadiz): Ter Stegen; Dest, Mingueza, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, De Jong; Messi, Griezmann, Coutinho; Braithwaite.
#Culers! Here's YOUR starting XI for #BarçaJuve!
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 8, 2020
- Juventus (vs Torino): Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Danilo; Kulusevski, Bentancur, Rabiot, Chiesa; Dybala, Ronaldo.
??⭐️ ???? ????: ??? #??????? ??#BarçaJuve #FinoAllaFine #ForzaJuve pic.twitter.com/uwtfGR5Lwf
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) December 8, 2020
Ousmane Dembele is once again sidelined for Barcelona with another hamstring problem. The France international will join Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto on the sidelines, while compatriot Samuel Umtiti is also likely to miss out due to a knee problem.
The visitors will remain without Merih Demiral, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon but Alvaro Morata is available to play in his homeland with his suspension only applying to domestic matches.
Players to watch:
Barcelona: Lionel Messi
For what feels like the first time in his career, Lionel Messi is off form and all does not appear well. Over the years, we’ve become so accustomed to the diminutive Argentine tearing defences apart in La Liga, the Champions League and beyond that we’ve almost taken it for granted. 73 goals in a single season? That’s just Messi. 91 goals in a calendar year? That’s just Messi. Right?
Well, in his last 17 games for club and country, Messi has managed just two non-penalty goals while five of his 16 La Liga goals in 2020 have come from the spot, leaving him with just 11 non-penalty goals in 30 league appearances this year.
His shot conversion rate in La Liga this season stands at a sub-average 11.76% and although he provided one of his two Champions League assists in the current campaign the last time these two sides met, the 33-year-old is yet to do so in La Liga in 2020/21.
On the goalscoring front, and perhaps a symptom of Barcelona struggling to adequately replace Luis Suarez, Ronald Koeman has treated Messi as his main striker, with the Blaugrana consistently looking for opportunities to cut the ball back to him in the box. Does this place too much responsibility on Messi to be in the right place at the right time? Only the man himself can tell you that, but we’ve all borne witness to Messi at his best, drifting between the lines to pick up the ball in space before ghosting through the opposition defence as if they weren’t there, or taking the ball past them with some dazzling link-up play.
Then, of course, there is his contract situation, with Messi famously coming close to leaving the Camp Nou over the summer, only to remain as he didn’t want to take his beloved Barcelona to court. Again, only Messi himself will be able to tell you if that is truly affecting him on the pitch, but it’s clear he hasn’t been the same player since in terms of goals output.
Barcelona fans can take solace in the fact that Messi has outscored Ronaldo 3-0 in their previous Champions League meetings. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner will want to call upon that seemingly bygone energy again on Tuesday.
Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo
While Messi has looked a shadow of his usual self this season, Cristiano Ronaldo has continued to take the fight to father time, scoring 10 goals in nine games for Juve in all competitions so far this season, taking his total for the club to 75 goals in 98 games. He’s 35 years old now, you know…
One area where critics (and Messi supporters) seek to pull down Ronaldo is, similar to his rival, when it comes to penalties padding out his goalscoring totals. Indeed, Ronaldo has scored 29 goals in 25 Serie A appearances in 2020 so far, but 11 of them have come from the penalty spot. The Portuguese’s rebuttal, of course, would be that even when you take the spot-kicks away, he still sits clear of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ciro Immobile for the calendar year — his closest competitors in Serie A. The way he has adjusted from a blisteringly fast inside forward to a poacher and target man he has advanced into his 30s only serves to add to Ronaldo’s growing legend.
That said, despite scoring 15 goals in his last 20 appearances against his old adversary, Ronaldo has played more Champions League games without scoring against Barcelona (5) than he has versus any other side. As mentioned, Messi has bagged three times across those games.
With Ronaldo entering the twilight of his career (even if his form doesn’t suggest so), he’ll undoubtedly be looking to tick off as many elusive achievements as possible, one of them being scoring against and beating Messi’s Barcelona in the Champions League. At 35, how many more chances is he going to get?
Champions League 2020/21 recent form:
- Barcelona: WWWWW
- Juventus: WLWWW