Red-hot Villarreal host Juventus for Champions League last-16

Castellon/Rome, Feb 21 (EFE).- Villarreal are to host Juventus on Tuesday for the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 with the aim of extending their good run.

The Spanish team have been relishing the best moment of the season, having recovered from a shaky start to fight – as do Juventus in the Serie A – for a Champions League spot in LaLiga table.

Villarreal earned an away 4-1 win over Granada on the strength of a hat-trick from Arnaut Danjuma, who seemed to have regained top form after recovering from his injury.

The Yellow Submarine will have to do without Francis Coquelin, Rubén Peña and Gerard Moreno, while Étienne Capoue remains a doubt having been on the sidelines for a couple of weeks due to muscle issues.

However, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri denied that Villarreal’s good run tips the scales in the Spaniard’s favor.

“The tie isn’t already decided,” he said at a presser on the eve of the match. “[Villarreal] are having a good spell at the moment, as are we”.

“They are a technical team with a great coach. It will be a very tactical match, where we will have to pay attention to the details and have patience.

“We will need to compose ourselves and show balance,” he added.

Juve will have to do that without Argentine star Paulo Dybala, who joined Giorgio Chiellini on the sidelines.

Allegri, however, will have available Leonardo Bonucci and Luca Pellegrin who despite making the roster at the last minute, are unlikely to start against Villarreal.

Dusan Vlahovic, who joined Juventus during the winter transfer market, is set for his Champions League debut with the Italian team, having scored in his first Serie A and Italian Cup games.

“We must not overload Vlahović. Tomorrow is his debut, let’s not forget that. I must protect him as I have done with others. He is just 22-years-old,” the coach said.

Alongside the Serb, Álvaro Morata is expected to start against Villarreal, as he has been putting a good performance as well as showing good understanding with Vlahovic.

“The position I play in doesn’t matter,” the Spaniard said at a presser. “The important thing is that Juventus win and our performances bring optimism.”

“We have an important test tomorrow. It’s difficult to win in the Champions League, but it’s also difficult to beat us,” he added.

Despite not having lost since 27 November, Juventus are not having their best campaign as they are fourth, nine points off the pace, just three points ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta, who have a match in hand.

The Champions League game is a chance for Juventus to reverse these dynamics against a team that play at their best level of the season.

“We always play to win, both the Italian Cup and the Champions League,” Allegri said. “Obviously it all depends on how things go.”

“Will our approach change with the away goals rule being abolished? I don’t know yet, but in the meantime let’s think about getting a result tomorrow,” he added. EFE


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