Champions League Round 4: Preview and Lineups

It’s the return fixtures of the Champions League Group Stage round, as Juventus, Inter, Atalanta and Lazio prepare to meet the same opponents they faced 20 days ago on Match-day Three.

Whilst the Italian champions earned a routine victory which put them on the cusp of qualification, things seem to be a bit more complicated for the two black-and-blue Lombardy sides who suffered defeats last time around.

So here’s our full preview and probable lineups for the Italian clubs in the UEFA Champions League Round 4 of the group stage.

Lazio – Zenit St. Petersburg

Lazio’s situation in Group F is an odd one. After managing to beat Borussia Dortmund in the opening round – the group’s strongest team on paper – they had to settle for draws against Club Brugge and Zenit St. Petersburg, and thus they find themselves in second place with 5 points, just behind the Bundesliga runners-up. But taking into account their Covid-19 woes, the Biancocelesti did well to gain two hard-earned away points with a decimated squad.

The Covid-19 crisis is finally easing up at the capital side, so Simone Inzaghi will almost have an entire squad to pick from, with the most notable absentee being Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Marco Parolo will most likely take the Serbian’s place in midfield alongside Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva, while Joaquin Correa should once again start right behind Ciro Immobile in attack as Lazio maintain their 3-5-2 lineup. On the other hand the Russians’ lineup will feature former Barcelona winger Malcom and star striker Artem Dzyuba.

After getting most of their players back to the squad for their Champions League round 4 home fixture, the capital side should be able to brush aside their Russian opponents who currently sit bottom of the group, and put themselves one step away from qualification.

Juventus – Ferencvaros 

Unsurprisingly, Juventus were able to earn their second away victory of their European campaign, thanks to braces from Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala, and are now preparing to meet Ferencvaros once again, when they welcome the Hungarian champions at the Allianz Stadium in round 4 of the Champions League.

With Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral all out, Andrea Pirlo has a real defensive crisis at hand, so Danilo will turn into a makeshift center-back alongside Matthijs De Ligt, while Alex Sandro is expected to make his first start of the season. The Bianconeri will also have the opportunity to rotate in this supposedly “easy” fixture, so Weston McKennie could take Adrien Rabiot’s place in midfield, and Paulo Dybala is likely to partner Cristiano Ronaldo upfront.

Although Juventus are unlikely to finish on top of group G after their home defeat to Barcelona, another win over the newcomers will probably be enough to seal their official qualification. Another bottle job would be inexplicable for Pirlo at this point.

Inter – Real Madrid

Tougher challenges await the Italian clubs on Wednesday. Two draws followed by a defeat in Madrid have left Inter the bottom of group B, with another early Champions League elimination looming in the horizon for Antonio Conte, as round 4 could hand the former Italy manager the fatal blow. Meanwhile, his former Juventus teammate Zinedine Zidane will be hoping to lift his side further with a second victory in a row, putting his team’s early woes behind him.

After making him rest in the first half against Torino, Conte will once again unleash Lautaro Martinez alongside Romelu Lukaku in attack. In the absence of Marcelo Brozovic, Roberto Gagliardini could maintain his position in midfield beside Arturo Vidal and Nicolò Barella.

For his part, Los Blancos manager Zidane could rely on Vinicius, Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio to support Mariano Diaz in attack, as the former Juventus legend tries to find solutions for the absence of his two key players – Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos. 

Inter must build on their second half display in Madrid, when they were able to peg back the 13-time champions and pull their way back to the match before conceding a late goal against the run of play. A defeat for the Nerazzurri could wreck their qualification chances, but a draw – whilst not ideal – could keep their slim hopes alive.

Liverpool – Atalanta 

Atalanta started the competition on a high note with a routing of Danish side Midtjylland, but then had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home at Ajax, before being on the wrong side of an embarrassing 5-0 smashing at home against Liverpool. This week, La Dea have a chance to redeem themselves when they travel to meet the English champions once again, this time at the historical Anfield Stadium.

Liverpool might be another side who’s suffering from an injury crisis in defense, but Jürgen Klopp will try to make up for it by unleashing the terrifying attacking quartet of Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and the returning Mohamed Salah. On the other hand, Gian Piero Gasperini should once again favor his Colombian duo in attack – Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata – with captain Alejandro Gomez right behind them. Hans Hateboer and Johan Mojica will support from the flanks.

Although Atalanta’s encounter against Ajax in Matchday 6 will be their do-or-die clash, a decent showing at Anfield could help in lifting up the Italians’ spirits during their current difficult period.