Juventus and Maccabi Haifa start their Champions League seasons on Wednesday with a game they must win in order to advance. Both teams are aimless and adrift at the bottom of Group H.
Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica meet in Turin for the first match of a doubleheader that may essentially determine their status in Europe after giving them a six-point advantage.
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Juventus has already dropped both of its first group games for the first time after suffering consecutive losses to PSG and, shortly before the international break, their anticipated competitors for second place in Group E, Benfica.
Longtime underdogs in Paris, they were humiliated at home by the Lisbon club in the midst of more conflict at the Allianz Stadium as Juve struggled to get off to a strong 2022–23 season.
The Bianconeri lost a lead against Benfica to remain without a point and fall six points behind their Portuguese rivals in the standings shortly after being held to a local stalemate by mediocre Salernitana.
Juventus had only won once in their previous eight games when they played Bologna, but a fortnight off seemed to have done the Old Lady some good, as Filip Kostic and Dusan Vlahovic of Serbia scored a goal each before halftime, and Arkadiusz Milik added a third goal shortly after the hour mark.
Allegri must undoubtedly guide his team to consecutive victories if they are to stay in the running for a spot in the Champions League’s knockout round, especially with early indications of a fruitful partnership between the latter pair instilling hope among Juve’s disgruntled fanbase.
Juve will now play Maccabi Haifa twice during the course of a key 10-day stretch, either side of a trip to Scudetto holders Milan, and then they will compete in the Turin derby.
In their lone prior meeting, Maccabi Haifa fell to Juventus 1-0 at home and away in the group stage of the 2009–10 season, with the now-deceased defender of the Bianconeri Giorgio Chiellini scoring the game-winning goal in Turin.
13 years later, Maccabi is back in Piedmont and currently has the same point total as its hosts after two Group E games.
Barak Bakhar’s team took an unexpected lead and gave their illustrious opponents plenty of problems on the second matchday, even though they ultimately fell to PSG 3-1. Only goals from the superstar triumvirate of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Lionel Messi proved the difference in a thrilling game.
Despite the fact that Tjaronn Chery’s goal in the first half gave the Greens their first goal in 702 minutes during the Champions League group stage, they have now lost each of their last eight games at this elite level.
Thanks to winning the Israeli Premier League for the second year in a row last season, Haifa entered the qualifying process in the second round and have already come a long way to compete among Europe’s top teams. They must now translate their performances into outcomes, though, if they are to maintain their position at the top table through 2023.
Despite Juve’s struggles, Maccabi Haifa faces a difficult task just to secure third place in their group despite playing above their weight class in the always challenging Champions League.
The rematch may be closer next week in Israel, but the home team will triumph because they are under less pressure after a decisive victory against Bologna.