Watch on Fox Sports
Melbourne Victory – $8 at William Hill
Draw – $5 at William Hill
Juventus – $1.36 at Sportsbet.com.au
A RAFT of Juventus’ brightest stars have not made the trip down under, but that does not mean the young, talented side sent to Melbourne isn’t a hot favourite to win the opening match of the International Champions Cup.
The Italian giants, fresh of winning the Serie A title and the Coppa Italia, have left 13 of their best players at home, headlined by legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Manchester United target Paul Pogba.
Giorgio Chiellini, Simone Zaza, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Stefano Sturaro and Claudio Marchisio have also stayed home following their involvement at Euro 2016 in France.
So too have German midfielder Sami Khedira, Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and France left-back Patrice Evra.
The new signing from Barcelona, Dani Alves, was also not on the plane.
It leaves a young side that will be spearheaded by superstar midfielder Miralem Pjanic and the club’s top goalscorer in 2015/16, Paolo Dybala.
At 22, Dybala appears to have the world at his feet after slotting 23 goals in all competitions following his transfer from Palermo last year.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit our shores with Real Madrid for the 2015 ICC tourney and Dybala might be the closest thing we see to the Portuguese superstar this year – even if he does’t like to be compared to the Euro 2016 winner.
“He’s a great player and it would be a pleasure to be like him but being myself is fine,” Dybala said.
The Argentine striker said he expected the Victory to provide stiff opposition on Saturday night in their home town.
“It will be a tough game because we have just arrived and have jet lag,” Dybala added.
“We will do the best for our fans in an important game.”
Victory veteran Carl Valeri – supporter of Juve’s bitter rivals AC Milan – can’t wait to take on the arch enemy.
“100 per cent. I’m excited,” Valeri said.
“It’s a dream come true.
“I mean to play Juventus at home in front of Melbourne Victory supporters – what a night.
“It’s going to be great for the youngsters, it’s going to be a great experience.
“I wish I had this experience when I was young.
“It’s definitely going to help them grow.
“It’s a stepping stone to get the right mentality, to make those mistakes, to get better – it’s an opportunity to get better and that’s what we’ve got to go out and do.”
While there are no odds on the first goalscorer markets released yet, there are two men we would be targeting from the Juve side.
They are the key figures in Pjanic and Dybala.
Pjanic is no stranger to Australian shores, having visited last season when he was playing for another Italian club, AS Roma.
He made a big-money move to Juventus in the transfer window earlier this year and will get another crack on the hallowed turf of the MCG.
As for the Victory, you can’t go past the A-League’s finest striker of all time, Besart Berisha.
Berisha slotted a lazy 27 goals across all competitions last season, leading the Victory to the FFA Cup title.
If anyone is going to strike, it will be him – provided he plays.
The Victory showed their class earlier this week when they released goalkeeper Danny Vukovic from his contract on compassionate grounds.
Vukovic has moved north to Sydney FC to be with his family after it was revealed his son required a liver transplant.
Juve have plenty of other things on their mind – like resisting world-record transfer bids for their superstar Pogba.
Manchester United have tabled some astonishing bids for the 23-year-old French genius in a bid to lure him to the Premier League.
The Italians are playing serious hardball, although UK media are now claiming that United have struck a deal for some AUD $175 million.
If you listen to Pogba, however, it would appear he has no desire to leave Juve.
“This is my team, my family, where I am playing,” the former Man United midfielder said recently.
“I am happy there, I play football, and do things I wanted to do when I was small.”
Time will tell how this pans out. Nothing is certain when transfer dollars come calling.
Juventus squad: Alex Sandro, Asamoah, Audero, Benatia, Blanco, Cerri, Coccolo, Del Favero, Dybala, Hernanes, Kastanos, Lemina, Lirola, Loria, Macek, Marrone, Neto, Padovan, Parodi, Pereyra, Pjanic, Rosseti, Rugani, Severin, Vitale.
Match result: Juventus to win ($1.36 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Correct match score: Juventus 2-0 ($6.50 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Total match goals: Under 2.5 ($2.25 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Just because the stars have stayed home, doesn’t mean the Victory stand a chance here. There is far too much pride on the line for the Italians to be caught napping against an A-League club.
Juventus still have oodles of talent across all lines. And the Victory plan to roll out a 16-year-old. It might be a dream, but there is very little chance of the Melbourne club pulling off a massive boil-over here.
The best they can hope for is to stick with the Old Lady.
We expect the Victory to sit back and defend hard, parking the bus in the hope they can find that one breakaway to nick a goal. They should be able to hold fire thanks to a decent defence, but we can’t see them scoring.
Juventus should be strong enough on the attacking front to weave their way through the Victory defenders and find the back of the net at least twice on the night. And they should have the defensive chops to keep the Victory strikers at bay.
Good luck, Melbourne – you’re going to need it.
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