On Thursday, Juventus will play Nantes in the second leg of their playoff match at the Stadium de la Beaujoire, with the winner earning a spot in the round of 16.
For the first time in 22 years, Nantes, which is playing in Europe, can be proud of holding Italian powerhouse Juventus to a score draw at home last week. Head coach Antoine Kombouare praised his team’s “heroic and strong” effort to keep the game alive.
When they were defeated 3-1 away at Lens in Ligue 1 last weekend, Kombouare and co, they could not build on their impressive midweek draw with a win. As a result, they are now wallowing in 13th place in the French top-flight rankings, nine points above the relegation zone.
This season, Nantes has proven their tenacity at home, losing just three times in 14 games played at the Stadium de la Beaujoire in all competitions.
Nantes UEL Form: L L L W W D
Nantes Form (All Competition): W W W D L
Juventus is now participating in the Europa League for the first time in nine years following a disappointing Champions League group-stage campaign in which they finished third behind Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain. However, work must be done before they can start considering potential opponents for the last-16.
Juve did have their fair share of opportunities and controlled possession against Nantes in the first leg, but it ultimately proved costly to enable the French team to tie the score with their lone effort on goal.
Last Sunday, Juventus defeated Spezia 2-0 on the road in Serie A thanks to goals from Moise Kean and Angel di Maria that came from either side of the half. This allowed Juventus to recover from their midweek draw.
Going all the way in this year’s Europa League is their greatest hope of securing Champions League football for next season after Juventus has docked 15 points in Serie A for alleged financial violations, leaving them 12 points adrift of the top four.
Juventus UEL Form: D
Juventus Form (All Competition): W W W D W
Quentin Merlin, a forward for Nantes who is now sidelined with a groyne ailment, will remain out while Ignatius Ganago has been given time off from the first team following the tragic death of his daughter, who was five years old.
Given that both Nicolas Pallois and Jean-Charles Castelletto missed last weekend’s loss to Lens due to respective groyne and muscular injuries, Joao Victor and Charles Traore may be able to keep their positions in the back three.
Paul Pogba (knee), Arkadiusz Milik (muscle), Fabio Miretti (ankle), and Kaio Jorge (knee) are all still out for Juventus as they work their way back from significant injuries.
Federico Chiesa, who recently returned from a 10-month absence due to an ACL injury, could not play in Juve’s victory over Spezia last weekend. He is now has a tight window for recovery in time for Thursday’s match.
Nantes’ possible starting lineup:
Lafont; Victor, Girotto, Traore; Centonze, Sissoko, Chirivella, Moutoussamy, Coco; Blas, Mohamed
Juventu’s possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; De Sciglio, Danilo, Bremer, Sandro; Fragioli, Locatelli, Rabiot; Di Maria, Vlahovic, Kostic
Head to Head
The two teams have faced off against each other three times, and each encounter took place at a UEFA-affiliated event.
Now, the head-to-head record is precisely even, with one game resulting in a tie and one win for each side.
Both teams won at home in their first meeting, which took place in the 1995–96 UEFA Champions League semifinals.
Time, Date & Venue
Date: Thursday, February 23
Time: 05:45 pm, UK Time
Venue: Stade de la Beaujoire stadium, Nantes city
In front of their home crowd, Nantes will enjoy playing the underdog. They proved in the first leg, they have the skills to pose issues for Juventus on Thursday.
The Italians, who have plenty of European experience and have a stronger team. They should be able to secure a narrow victory to move to the round of 16.