Other matches in this round of the Champions League may be more exciting and hold more attacking talent, but it's possible that none is more interesting than Juventus hosting Borussia Dortmund (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 2). Both sides match up well with one another on a tactical level, but the intrigue comes not just from that matchup, but from the fact both clubs are aching to prove themselves in this tie.
Juventus have not exactly been able to cover themselves in glory in Europe over the last few years, but now their core squad and reserves are better than they've been in that time. If they're ever going to make a deep run in the Champions League, now is the time, but they need to find a way to capitalize on this chance. Jürgen Klopp will be doing everything he can to help Dortmund spoil that chance, while also proving to Europe that the struggles Der BVB went through in the first half of the season are behind them. Their form in the Bundesliga has been much improved of late -- now Dortmund fans just hope they can ride that improvement to an upset of Juventus.
Juventus are relatively fortunate in that while they do have injuries to deal with, none of them are to truly key and vital players. Kwadwoh Asamoah is out with a knee injury and Andrea Barzagli is questionable with an ankle injury, but with Max Allegri's current tactical setup both are rotational options. Luca Marrone and Alessandro Matri are both backups at most right now, so them being in doubt is no major blow for Juve, though Marrone's versatility would be missed on the bench to some extent if he can't play. Arturo Vidal has recently resumed training and is expected to start.
Dortmund only have one player sure to be out, though not having Kevin Großkreutz hurts considering how talented and amazingly versatile he is. Midfield anchor Sven Bender and his backup, Dortmund's captain Sebastian Kehl, are banged up and nursing knee and shoulder injuries, respectively. Kevin Kampl also has an unspecified knock, though he should be available. Several Dortmund players have been ill recently as well, including Mats Hummels, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Erik Durm and Ciro Immobile. Of those four, only Durm was not on the bench for Saturday's Bundesliga match against Stuttgart, and Blaszczykowski played a little over 20 minutes as a substitute.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Juventus (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Stephan Lichtsteiner; Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio; Arturo Vidal; Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller; Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszczek; Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan; Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jakub Blaszczykoski; Pierre-Emerick Aubemayeng
Marco Reus vs. Stephen Lichtsteiner - Reus is Dortmund's best player, period, so keeping him out of the match will be a major focus for Juventus. Fortunately for them, they've got one of the best right backs in Europe in Lichtsteiner. He's going to have his hands full in a big way trying to keep Reus contained, and every time he loses his grasp on the German international will be a chance for Dortmund to punish Juventus and try to find and advantage in the tie.
Andrea Pirlo vs. Henrikh Mkhitaryan - These two midfields as a whole create interesting matchups, but this area of the pitch is perhaps the most fascinating. Both the venerable star Pirlo and the dynamic Mkhitaryan are the creative hubs of their squads, but also serve under-rated defensive roles for their teams as well. Watching them duel all match long is going to be all kinds of fun, and could maybe -- just maybe -- be the key to the game's end result.
Carlos Tevez vs. Neven Subotic - It's no secret that Subotic has had his problems this season, especially against smaller, hard working strikers. It just so happens that Juventus have exactly that kind of striker in Tevez, and Subotic is going to have to be focused and disciplined to keep from getting torn a new one by the Argentine striker. If he fails, Tevez could have a field day, and Dortmund would be in a heap of trouble.
This is going to be a cagey affair between two well-coached teams. Dortmund's form has been sufficiently improved of late to the point where it's not unrealistic at all to think that they'll give Juventus all the game they can handle. With a two-legged tie and two managers willing to play the long game, this should be an evenly-fought match. 1-1 Draw.