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Mandzukic ‘probable’

Juve pledge courage and ‘riskier’ approach

Pep Guardiola, Franck Ribéry and Robert Lewandowski had left the Allianz Arena on Tuesday a long time before Juventus arrived: the Italians’ team bus rolled up to the stadium at a little after 5.30 in the afternoon and the players took to the sacred turf. They were kitted out in their official team suits, so the purpose of the brief visit was merely to sample the atmosphere and get in the mood rather than train. Mario Mandzukic shot the breeze with Sami Khedira, and Paul Pogba was the last man off the bus, in red shoes and a red cap, chatting into his phone.

Coach Massimilano Allegri and goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon were just as cool and relaxed but also determined when they addressed the subsequent press conference. “We know we’ll need a perfect performance if we’re to beat Bayern,” said Allegri, “They, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the favourites to win the Champions League.”

The Italians regard themselves as the underdogs on Wednesday, especially in the now confirmed absence of Paulo Dybala, Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini. “It’s a real shame they can’t take part in the most important match of the season so far,” coach Allegri reflected. On the plus side, it looks as though Mandzukic will in fact be fit for the head-to-head with his former club, probably lining up alongside Spaniard Alvaro Morata in a two-pronged strike pairing. Simone Zaza is on standby in the event Mandzukic cannot play.

‘Like a semi-final or final’

Despite all that Allegri announced he would field a strong team. Bayern would control the match with more possession, but his troops do not only aim to defend, according to the head coach. “We have to take risks and score at least one goal. We have to win or achieve a 3-3 draw. We know we have lots of work ahead of us.”

The same goes for Buffon, still one of the best in his trade. “I admire him very much,” said Guardiola in the afternoon. Buffon in turn praised Bayern: “It feels like a semi-final or final,” the 38-year-old said. “There's no question we have to play better than in the first leg. We mustn't be afraid. If so, we're dangerous opponents and can cause them problems.”