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Preview: Malmo vs. Juventus - prediction, team news, lineups
13/09/2021 14:34:49

Amid the storm caused by their star player's departure, Juventus have struggled to adapt, so they seek to bounce back at Malmo on Tuesday (8:00PM, 14 Sept), upon their return to the Champions League.


Following a limp last-16 exit last term, Juve only just scraped into Europe's elite competition on the final day of the Serie A season, while their hosts - who started in the first round of qualifying - are back in the big time after six years away.


Match preview


Remaining without a league victory this season, after they lost to Napoli in the their first match since Cristiano Ronaldo officially left for Manchester United, it seems that the apparent crisis at Juventus is only getting bigger rather than receding.


Serie A's top scorer in 2020-21, Ronaldo helped the Bianconeri to win the Scudetto in both of his first two seasons, but his third year in Turin was bedeviled by collective - if not personal - underachievement.


A chastening defeat to promoted Empoli just before the international break - plus Saturday's loss at their great southern rivals - leaves the Italian giants in disarray once again, despite switching coaching novice Andrea Pirlo for experienced mastermind Max Allegri, who led Juventus to the final in 2015 and 2017 but lost on both occasions.


Pirlo's side may have won five of their six games in last season's group stage - even claiming first place in Group G with a 3-0 victory at Barcelona on the final matchday - but for the second season running Juve crashed out on away goals in the final 16.


Having lost on aggregate to Porto after suffering the same fate against Lyon in 2019-20, this year Juventus find themselves in a challenging group, which also features title-holders Chelsea, plus the national champions of both Sweden and Russia.


In their previous 51 top-flight domestic campaigns, only in 2015 were the Bianconeri also unable to win any of their first three league games. Furthermore, Allegri has now failed to win his last eight matches in charge of the club - including the tail-end of his previous successful spell as boss.


Therefore, the pressure is on to get off to a fast start in Malmo on the opening night, before a so-called crisis morphs into a nightmare.


Back-to-back Swedish champions, Juve's hosts have already staged a successful qualifying campaign to reach the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2015 - having beaten Riga, Nordic neighbours HJK Helsinki, Scottish champions Rangers and then Ludogorets during a taxing preliminary process.


Though a recent dip in form has seen Malmo slip off the top of the Allsvenskan in defence of their title, Jon Dahl Tomasson's side - who claimed the club's 21st Swedish title in 2020; their fifth in the last eight years - are set to prove a troublesome presence in Group H.


Di Blae's two previous top-tier group stage involvements came in 2014 and 2015, with the latter representing the last time a Swedish club even reached the bright lights and prestige of this phase.


After finishing fourth in their section on both of those previous appearances - winning one game and losing the other five in each instance - Tomasson will be keen that his team convert domestic dominance into tangible continental progress, and will not merely be happy with making it this far.


A former Milan striker - who did not fare well during his introduction to coaching while in the Netherlands but has done far better at Eleda Stadion - he scored once in his two games against Juve in 2003-04. Undoubtedly, Tomasson and would delight in taking advantage of the Old Lady's current pain this week, particularly with tough fixtures against Chelsea and Zenit lying ahead in the coming weeks.


Team News


On Tuesday, Max Allegri will expect to welcome back several men missing from the defeat in Naples, as South American stars Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala, Danilo, Alex Sandro and Rodrigo Bentancur could feature, having returned late from international duty.


However, Italy winger Federico Chiesa may remain sidelined because of a hamstring problem and the Brazilian duo of Kaio Jorge and Arthur are both absent for the Bianconeri - but Aaron Ramsey was back on the bench on Saturday and should be involved.


In the absence of Chiesa and Dybala, Allegri chose to team Dejan Kulusevski with Alvaro Morata up front, and the Swedish forward is a contender to start again back in his homeland.


Malmo, meanwhile, still have long-term injury absentees Ola Toivonen and Jonas Knudsen in the treatment room, while Finnish veteran Niklas Moisander and midfield regular Oscar Lewicki are also doubtful. Goalkeeper Ismael Diawara has deputised for the injured Johan Dahlin in recent weeks and should continue between the posts.


Club captain Anders Christiansen - twice Allsvenskan Player of the Year since arriving at the club in 2016 and a Danish squad member at Euro 2020 - will link up in midfield with summer signing Sergio Pena, if available. The Peru international joined Di Blae after the Copa America, where he started all seven matches as his nation made it to the semi-finals, but recently suffered a calf injury and must be monitored before the match.


Up front, dangerous Croatian striker Antonio Colak - a star of the qualifying campaign - could be joined by Veljko Birmancevic, a 23-year-old Serb who netted in both legs of the playoff against Ludogorets.


Malmo possible starting lineup:

Diawara; Larsson, Ahmedhodzic, Brorsson, Olsson; Rakip, Innocent; Rieks, Christiansen, Birmancevic; Colak


Juventus possible starting lineup:

Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Sandro; McKennie, Locatelli, Rabiot; Kulusevski, Morata, Dybala


We say: Malmo 1-1 Juventus


On home soil, Malmo can hold firm against a Juventus side who have all the pressure on their shoulders ahead of the game.


The Allsvenskan outfit pose a definite goal threat and are sure to test the instability which has plagued both the visitors' back four and their previously reliable goalkeeper.


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