Seeking to stay atop Group H of the Champions League, an in-form Juventus will be without one of their best defenders Tuesday when they face Olympique Lyon in France on Matchday 3.
Though Juventus (1-1-0) lead the group over Sevilla on goal difference, the Spanish side is playing Dinamo Zagreb, whom both la Vecchia Signora and Lyon (1-0-1) easily swept aside in the previous two matchdays. And playing without Giorgio Chiellini – who sat out Saturday’s 2-1 win over Udinese with a thigh strain — will not make this task any easier.
The team said Sunday there was no long-term damage to Chiellini’s left thigh but they will re-evaluate him next week. He has been part of an airtight defence that has helped Juve outscore opponents 14-1 during a five-match winning streak across all competitions.
Chiellini’s absence forced Leonardo Bonucci into action after manager Massimiliano Allegri wanted to give the Italy international extra rest following the Azzurri’s World Cup qualifiers. But everything worked out in the end for Juve, who received a brace from Paulo Dybala and opened up a five-point lead atop Serie A as they chase their sixth consecutive scudetto.
“It was a tricky match and the lads have secured a very important win. If you want to win the scudetto, you need to experience nights like these,” Allegri said. “Tonight was one of those nights where we knew we had to dig in. Plus we all need to work together if we want to succeed in winning a sixth straight league title.”
Almost everyone seems to be in form offensively for Juventus, whether it be for club or country. Dybala had also scored in his previous two games before the international break and played in both of Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers. Compatriot Gonzalo Higuain scored in the draw versus Peru and has six goals for Juventus in eight matches despite starting only four.
Marko Mandzukic has yet to score for Juventus this season but had match-winners for Croatia against both Kosovo and Finland as part of his overall four-goal haul last week internationally.
Allegri may be able to call upon Claudio Marchisio for this match. The veteran midfielder was on the bench this weekend against Udinese after missing the previous six months with a knee injury, and his savvy could go a long way in negating Chiellini’s absence while providing plenty of cover in the middle of the pitch.
Juventus have played well in their last two trips to France, emerging with a draw at Monaco in last year’s group stages of Champions League play and winning 1-0 at Lyon in the first leg of the 2014 Europa League quarterfinals on Bonucci’s goal five minutes from time. Juve advanced on a 3-1 aggregate after posting a 2-1 win in Turin.
The Italian side is 3-2-5 all-time in true road matches played in France.
Lyon are enduring a rollercoaster season in Ligue 1 in which they are already 10 points adrift of Nice following a 2-0 road defeat to the league leaders Friday night in which they played the final hour of the match with 10 men after Nabil Fekir was sent off for stamping on Paul Baysse’s arm. Les Gones again struggled outside Stade de Lyon, and their goalless drought on the road reached 413 minutes in all competitions dating back to Alexandre Lacazette’s goal in a 4-2 loss at Dijon on Aug. 27.
Lacazette came off the bench in the 64th minute for his first action injuring his thigh last month. He has six of Lyon’s 18 goals across all competitions, and the timing could not be better since playmaker Corentin Tolisso has failed to score in his last four matches after tallying four times in his first seven.
Additionally, Lyon may need their home-field advantage to come into play for this match. They are 12-2-1 since opening their new stadium and have yet to be held off the scoresheet there. Les Gones, though, also have dropped their last three matches against Italian opponents and are just 3-3-3 against them all-time at home and 7-4-7 overall.
Lyon’s biggest challenge is going to be getting their offence on track against a Juventus side that has allowed only six shots combined in their first two Champions League contests and one on target.
“We wanted to have six points, but we have only four,” Juventus defender and France international Patrice Evra told UEFA’s official website. “Now we face a team that wants to stay in the race for qualification. They have very good players and a new stadium.
“This team will want to show his supporters that it can compete with Juventus and even win. It will be be a great atmosphere. It may even be the most difficult match of the group I think.”
Szymon Marciniak of Poland will referee this match. The 35-year-old called the second leg of the AS Roma-Porto Champions League playoff in August and sent off Roma’s Daniele De Rossi and Emerson Palmieri on either side of halftime as Porto eventually won the match 3-0 and advanced into the group stages.
Probable Lineups: Lyon (3-5-2): Lopes, Mbiwa, Morel, Nkoulou, Darder, Rybus, Gonalons, Gaspar, Fekir, Tolisso, Lacazette. Juventus (3-5-2): Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Evra, Alves, Khedira, Hernanes, Pjanic, Sandro, Dybala, Higuain.
Prediction: Draw 1-1