Football

Barca ripe for the picking, says Juventus defender Bonucci

Spanish giants have been on the decline since winning 2015 final, says Juventus defender Bonucci

QUARTER-FINAL, 1ST LEG
JUVENTUS BARCELONA

Most players would dread facing Barcelona, but not Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci.

The Italian is smacking his lips in anticipation as the Old Lady prepare to host the likes of Lionel Messi in the first leg of their quarter-final tie Wednesday morning (Singapore time).

Barcelona aren't as strong as they were in 2015, when they beat Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final, said the 29-year-old.

The chinks in the Catalan side's armour have become more apparent since, while Bayern Munich have taken over their mantle as the side to be feared, he added.

Recalling the 2015 final in Berlin, Bonucci told Spanish newpaper El Pais: "We did well to contain them to a certain extent, but Leo Messi, (Luis) Suarez and Neymar are among the 10 best players in the world.

"They are unpredictable and have so much talent.

"We have to cover the spaces well. Messi moves deeper now and it means he can surprise you at any time.

"As for Neymar, look at the 60-metre sprint he made for Brazil against Paraguay."

Bonucci also insists he is ready to face the "cunning" Suarez, who infamously bit Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder when Uruguay faced Italy in the 2014 World Cup.

Said Bonucci: "Suarez will try to use everything to his advantage - cunning, physicality, sneakiness. But we have a lot of experienced players in defence.

“Our defence is stronger than that of Barcelona. We’ve proved what we’re capable of.”Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, on their backline which has conceded only two goals in eight Champions League games this term

STRONGER DEFENCE

"I think our defence is stronger than that of Barcelona. We've been together for many years and proved what we're capable of both for Juventus and Italy.

"In a two-legged tie where away goals count, a strong defence is an advantage."

To be sure, Juventus have conceded only two Champions League goals this season.

“Their weak point is when they do not have the ball. We must take advantage of this, playing a high line from midfield.”Juventus forward Paulo Dybala

While Barcelona have remained largely unchanged since the 2015 final, Juventus have undergone a revamp, with the departure of key players such as Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba.

Featuring prominently now are the likes of Paulo Dybala, who inherited Pirlo's No. 21 shirt, and German international midfielder Sami Khedira, both of whom joined in the summer of 2015.

Last year, they signed Barcelona right back Dani Alves, who spent eight trophy-laden years at the Nou Camp.

Dybala echoes Bonucci's confidence, telling Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the Old Lady must not be afraid.

"Paris St Germain conceded six goals at Nou Camp because they did not have the right attitude and we learned something from that match," the 23-year-old Argentinian said, referring to Barcelona's 6-1 win in the Round of 16, second leg to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit.

"Their strong point is how they play the ball, they have a goalkeeper who is good with his feet, good enough to be a midfielder. Their weak point is when they do not have the ball.

"We must take advantage of this, playing a high line from midfield. If we wait for them in defence instead, it will be us getting tired, not them." - WIRE SERVICES

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