Juventus vs VIllarreal Preview & Player to Watch

Juventus and Villarreal are set to trade tackles at the Allianz Arena in the return leg of their evenly-poised Champions League last-16 tie. With the tie finely poised at 1-1 following the first leg at La Ceramica, both sides will have all to play for in Turin. 

Dusan Vlahovic got on the scoresheet less than a minute into his Champions League debut to hand Juventus an early lead in Spain. However, Dani Parejo slotted home a second-half equaliser to throw Juve’s hopes of avoiding a third consecutive round-of-16 elimination on home turf.

Both teams will take the field in high spirits. While Massimiliano Allegri’s men cruised to a 3-1 win away to Sampdoria at the weekend to retain their faint hopes of landing the Serie A title, Villarreal eked out a 1-0 home triumph over Celta Vigo. 

Since the reigning Europa League holders lag six points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, the Champions League looks like their best chances of reaching Europe’s elite competition next season. Despite their stunning continental success last season, Villarreal are outsiders to progress from this tie.

Juventus Form & European Stats

The abovementioned victory at Sampdoria made it 12 successive matches across all competitions without defeat for Juventus (W8, D4). Back at the Allianz Stadium after a fortnight on the road, the record-time Serie A champions will rely on their ten-game unbeaten home form in competitive action (W8, D2).

Indeed, Juventus have turned the Allianz into a fortress since switching over to the new venue in 2011. The Bianconeri have only lost five of their 49 European fixtures at this stadium (W32, D12). Juve’s ten-game record against Spanish opponents (W6, D2, L2) should encourage their bid to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2018/19.

There is another good omen for Juventus. They have successfully negotiated 12 of the 15 UEFA competition ties in which they drew the first leg away from home. What’s more, they have won 59% of their two-legged knock-out ties against La Liga clubs (10/17).

Villarreal Form & European Stats

Since a 1-1 first-leg draw, Villarreal have alternated between victories and defeat across their three La Liga outings (W2, L1), with the last two in a row yielding the identical 1-0 scoreline. But Unai Emery’s men have blown hot and cold on the road of late. 

A return of two wins and three losses from their last five competitive away matches doesn’t sound promising from the Spaniards’ perspective. Moreover, El Submarino Amarillo have won just three times across their last 12 away games in the Champions League proper (D4, L5). 

Against this backdrop, Villarreal had been on a 26-match unbeaten run against non-Spanish rivals before slumping to a 2-1 defeat at Manchester United on Matchday 2.

They can draw further confidence from the fact that two of those successes came in this season’s group phase, including a 3-2 win at Atalanta on Matchday 6. Yet, the win in Bergamo marked only Villarreal’s second triumph in their 11 European visits to Italian sides (D4, L5).

Player to Watch

After joining the fray at Ferraris as a second-half substitute, Dusan Vlahovic will likely return to Allegri’s starting XI against Villarreal. Since arriving from Fiorentina in a blockbuster winter deal, the Serbian prodigy has found the net in four of his seven starts for the Bianconeri in all competitions. 

Vlahovic was by far Juventus’ most dangerous man at La Ceramica last time out. In addition to breaking the deadlock inside the opening minute of play, the 22-year-old forced off a stunning second-half save from Geronimo Rulli.

There is no doubt Vlahovic will be looking to pick up where he left off as Juventus look to avoid another premature Champions League exit. His role will be even more crucial now that Paulo Dybala is a confirmed absentee