Juventus have the slight advantage in tonight’s Champions League quarter final second leg – but will not be taking anything for granted given how well Ajax are currently playing.
The first leg in Amsterdam looked to be going exactly to plan for the reigning Serie A champions as Cristiano Ronaldo put any doubts over his fitness to bed by scoring a first-half opener.
But Ajax fought back immediately with a David Neres equaliser a minute after the restart, ensuring that the second leg begins with the match locked in a fascinating stalemate. Join us for LIVE coverage of one of the crunch European clash, with team news and build-up ahead of minute by minute coverage.
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A bold prediction from Miguel Delaney, settling in at the Camp Nou and welcoming all your angry tweets in response…
Plenty of pace in the Manchester United team, then. You suspect Barcelona will dominate possession, and in Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford they’ll have to wary of the counter-attack, presuming they lose the ball, which seemingly didn’t happen in the last 15 minutes of the first leg.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been pacing out the pitch. He thinks they’ve made it wider. They haven’t, apparently. Still, wonderful to see him in fine health and ready, along with a number of great United faces past and present, for a massive game of football.
(That’s the back of Gary Neville’s head, by the way. Probably best not to take tips from him on how to win at the Nou Camp.)
Team News – JUVENTUS vs Ajax
Emre Can starts in midfield and Mattia De Sciglio at right-back for Juventus, with Joao Cancelo and Rodrigo Bentancur dropping to the bench.
Paulo Dybala starts up front.
The confirmed team news from the Camp Nou:
Barcelona XI: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Arthur; Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Philippe Coutinho
Manchester United XI: David De Gea; Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young; Fred, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba; Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
Team News – BARCELONA vs Manchester United
Just the one change from the first leg for Barcelona. Nelson Semedo is out, Sergi Roberto is in.
Team News – Barcelona vs MANCHESTER UNITED
It is a back four, seemingly, for Manchester United, Ashley Young at left-back, Phil Jones at right-back. Alexis Sanchez and Nemanja Matic return to the bench.
Team News – Juventus vs AJAX
Big news for the Dutch side – Frenkie de Jong is fit and starts.
Back to Barcelona, then, and there is a real feeling that the club think this is their year, a yearning on the part of Lionel Messi to underline his legacy with another Champions League, sick at the successes of Real Madrid in recent years.
It is a squad sculpted around Messi, of course, and they have recruited well to that end, Clement Lenglet and Arthur fulfilling specific briefs ahead of more experienced campaigners at this level. Of their likely lineup, only really Philippe Coutinho is out of form. They are not the all-conquering force that some prompt them to be, and there are flaws in Ernesto Valverde’s conservative approach, but they seem well set up to grind out a home win at the very least and progress.
And the team news for tonight’s fixtures is just about to roll in…
Jack Pitt-Brooke is in Turin for tonight’s fixture, and rather enjoyed a working excursion into the city centre yesterday:
Switching to affairs in Turin, briefly, the standout star of the first leg was undoubtedly Frenkie de Jong, who will of course be pulling on a Barcelona shirt from the summer. The wickedly talented de Jong displayed all his prodigious qualities in a virtuoso performance in midfield, and thus Ajax will be concerned that a hamstring injury suffered 22 minutes into their intervening Eredivisie game with Excelsior may rule him out.
A shame for viewers, too, for de Jong is truly wonderful to watch, such grace, calm and poise in a midfield role that he has the potential to redefine. And yes, he is that good.
And will Solskjaer stick with the five-at-the-back, the loaded-up left side that worked, somewhat, in keeping Barcelona quiet?
While seemingly a measure designed to combat Lionel Messi, regular viewers of the Catalans will know that Messi is inhabiting the wider confines less and less and pounces on the defensive vulnerabilities an unfamiliar formation can reveal, as shown by the first-leg winner, capitalising Luke Shaw’s discomfort in being the deepest man.
I’d be picking a four and providing extra reinforcement through the middle.
A feature of the first leg was the McTominaissance, Scott the Scot mature in midfield, far from overawed despite his relative inexperience at this level and indifferent season.
You suspect McTominay will be further tested in a defensive capacity this evening, if, indeed, he keeps his place, with Nemanja Matic back amongst things and ready for selection.
After such a fantastic start, Manchester United’s momentum under Ole Gunner Solskjaer has rather stalled, injuries, suspensions and a general loss of form contributing to a slow puncture of a run that means the club are still moving forward, but slowing, certainly.
Solskjaer’s charges were outplayed by West Ham on Saturday evening and fortunate to escape with three points, but they find themselves falling behind the pack in the race for the top four.
Underdogs certainly, the nature of tonight’s fixture could just offer Manchester United the freedom they need to get back on track.
Ernesto Valverde is a more pragmatist than romantic as a manager, and with the league virtually wrapped up the Barcelona manager opted to rest the entirety of his anticipated outfield lineup in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Huesca.
With Lionel Messi’s facial injury but a flesh wound and no other fresh injury concerns, it seems likely we’ll see the same eleven players who started the first leg on the team sheet when news emerges in the next 45 minutes or so.
In a worrying story, the Dutch side will have to do without at least 54 of their travelling fans at the Allianz Stadium this evening after a group of supporters were found to be carrying weapons on arrival in Turin.
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Cristiano Ronaldo will score. It is inevitable these days in the Champions League, and perhaps the right question now is how many: one, two, or a hat-trick?
However, for the team normally so stable and sturdy at the back, they have not been as convincing this season. Manchester United scored twice at Allianz Stadium while AC Milan scored in their most recent outing at home, and Ajax could well give them a fight – but it won’t stop them from reaching a second semi-final in three years.
How to watch in the UK?
The match will be shown live on BT Sport 3 from 7:30pm. Highlights will be shown on BT Sport 2 from 12:30am Wednesday 17 April.