Zidane's managerial nous to be tested by Allegri and more Juventus v Real Madrid battles

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Massimiliano Allegri and Zinedine Zidane will lock horns again.

An engrossing repeat of last term’s showpiece is set to play out in Turin on Tuesday night when holders Real Madrid travel to Juventus for a Champions League quarter-final opener to relish.

The match at Juventus Stadium will feature a stellar cast packed with a plethora of football’s biggest names.

Here is where the meeting could be decided…

BATTLE IN THE DUGOUT

The doubters of 2014 have long been quietened by Massimiliano Allegri’s consummate success in Turin.

The now 50-year-old was an unpopular choice in certain quarters to replace the revitalising Antonio Conte. How could a man, who got sacked months before by AC Milan, hope to follow a club legend?

Well, the continued flood of trophies has been added to by two appearances in the Champions League final – an area Conte flopped.

Tactical brilliance has been allied with expert man management and a relaxed attitude. His instincts are without parallel.

The jury is still out about whether one of football’s greatest players in Zinedine Zidane can ever deserve similar standing in the coaching Pantheon.

This is a strange state of affairs when you consider that the France icon was named the 2017 The Best FIFA Football Coach and has won eight trophies during three years in the Los Blancos hot seat.

But the domestic travails of 2017/18 have sharpened focus about whether his supreme squad almost manages themselves. He’ll need to show something special to edge Allegri over two games, rather than last June’s one-off decider.

CAN CHIELLINI DO IT AGAIN?

Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon’s passionate roar as they celebrated the former’s vital interception to deny Harry Kane was the defining image of the Old Lady’s edging of Tottenham in the previous round.

Now that the grizzled centre-back has seen off last year’s top scorer in European football, the small matter of shutting out Ballon d’or holder Cristiano Ronaldo looms.

It’s hard to do justice to Chiellini’s redoubtable display at Wembley last month. His 13 clearances was six more than his nearest team-mate – suspended for this clash – Mehdi Benatia, while four tackles was the joint highest along with fellow war horse Andrea Barzagli.

Incredible feats. Yet these figures dramatically dropped off for June’s one-sided 4-1 defeat in the final.

A single tackle and interception was made, with only six clearances. From this, the unstoppable Ronaldo scored twice.

The Portugal icon has 12 goals already in this season’s competition, notching in every game. He’s also scored 21 times in his last 11 club outings.

It’s going to take something very special to stop him now.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini (r) reacts with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (l) after making an interception at Wembley.

Veterans: Chiellini reacts with goalkeeper Buffon at Wembley.

BALE IS THE ODD MAN OUT

Wales superstar Gareth Bale is likely to come plunging back down to earth when he lands in Turin.

A place on the bench is assured for the injury prone forward. And he can have few complaints.

Bale was brilliant when unleashed from the start in a much-changed XI at the weekend against lowly Las Palmas. In his eight shots, he delivered three on-target efforts and two goals.

But he only managed a combined 54 minutes in December’s 3-0 El Clasico humiliation and both round-of-16 ties against Paris Saint-Germain. Either the artistry of Isco or endeavour of Marco Asensio will be favoured, again, at Allianz Stadium in Zidane’s likely 4-4-2 diamond formation.

Last Saturday in the Canary Islands, however, Bale did clock a high speed of 31.5 kilometres per hour to race the length of the opposition half, latch onto Croatia midfielder Luka Modric’s delicious pass and fire in the opener. It was a fine piece of play.

Madrid do need the control of the younger pair though, before they can hope to exploit counter-attacking opportunities against tired legs.

This should prove true even though Bale’s four 2017/18 Champions League appearances have gained four wins, evenly split between starting and substitute roles.

DYBALA’S CHANCE TO DO SOME DAMAGE

Paulo Dybala will feel the pain of June’s showpiece shellacking more than most.

After his stunning exploits against Monaco and Barcelona in the prior rounds, much was expected of the electric forward at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

Instead, he short-circuited.

The then 23-year-old had just 45 touches, put in one off-target shot, made zero key passes and his 30 total passes was only six more than goalkeeper goalkeeper Buffon. A further indignity came when he was hooked on 78 minutes for defensive midfielder Mario Lemina – now at relegation-bound Southampton – with the score at a redeemable 3-1.

But aside from being curiously overlooked by Argentina in the international break, the last month has been kind to him.

Freed from the effects of a lingering thigh strain, he’s scored five times and set-up one goal in his last six games. This included successive winners against Lazio, Tottenham and Udinese, plus an emphatic low opener during Saturday’s 3-1 victory against AC Milan.

The centre-back partnership of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane has looked shaky throughout this season. Breaking through the cracks in Turin will help exorcise some of the pain.

A disconsolate Paulo Dybala after June's Champions League final defeat.

A disconsolate Paulo Dybala after June’s Champions League final defeat.

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Mohamed Salah can beat Kevin de Bruyne to Player of the Year award, insists Virgil van Dijk

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Back of the net: Mohamed Salah celebrates at Crystal Palace.

The hugely-anticipated Champions League quarter-final clash between the Premier League’s two top-scoring sides kicks off on Wednesday at Anfield where the emphasis is likely to be on goals.

Runaway league leaders City’s attacking intent revolves around the De Bruyne-David Silva partnership in midfield providing the ammunition for a pacy forward line of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and either Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero.

But in Salah Liverpool have the top-flight’s leading scorer, with 29 of his 37 goals in a remarkable debut season with the Reds coming in the league and at such a consistent rate he has equalled the record of Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo of finding the net in 21 different matches – with six games still remaining.

Asked whether the Egypt international could do serious damage to City, having already scored against them in their only Premier League defeat so far at Anfield in January, Van Dijk said: “That’s what everyone knows. That’s how we feel as well.

“He’s that kind of player that you just need to be on your best. When he is 100 per cent and in the zone then he can beat anyone.

“There are ways to stop him but I’m not going to tell you because I don’t want our opponents to think about it!”

De Bruyne’s form in the first half of the season appeared to make him a shoo-in for the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award, but Salah’s goalscoring exploits are likely to have made it a much closer race.

Van Dijk would not disclose whether the Liverpool players would be voting tactically and not supporting De Bruyne to help their team-mate’s chances of winning.

“That’s obviously not my decision. We need to look at ourselves,” he added.

“He’s having an amazing season but he needs to keep going, the season is still going.”

Despite being elevated to superstar status over the last year after his heroics in guiding Egypt to the World Cup, Salah remains a humble and hard-working player who shuns the limelight and is reluctant to give media interviews.

Van Dijk insists that fits in perfectly with the team ethic manager Jurgen Klopp has built within the squad and admits facing the on-fire forward in training every day has had a positive effect on him and his fellow defenders in particular.

“As defenders we need to step up our game obviously and make sure we are aware. It makes us better. That’s what we want, that’s what it’s going to be like at a top club,” he said.

“Mo is a great guy and works hard, just like the rest of the guys.

“I think everyone in the dressing room are just normal guys. Nobody feels better than each other, everybody is working hard for each other to get the win.

“That’s a very good thing to have in a team. Everyone knows our team spirit and without all of us Mo wouldn’t have scored his goals.

“That’s what he knows and that’s what everyone knows. Everyone needs to be giving 100 per cent and I think we do that.”

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Jupp Heynckes has chance to burnish his impressive Bayern Munich legacy

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Jupp Heynckes was the last manager to win the Champions League with Bayern.

Bayern Munich would have considered themselves lucky when the draw for the Champions League quarterfinals came out, having avoided all of the big guns.

But Sevilla‘s victory over Manchester United in the previous round served notice that they are not to be trifled with, and they will head into this tie in confident mood despite the calibre of their opposition. Vincenzo Montella’s side have an intense, physical style that could catch Bayern out.

Jupp Heynckes will have his hands full to make sure that doesn’t happen as he looks to reverse the Bundesliga leaders’ recent fortunes in Europe. Given their imperious domestic form, Bayern will enter Tuesday’s first leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with a certain swagger.

Here are three talking points ahead of the fixture.

ARE BAYERN AT SAME LEVEL AS MADRID, BARCA?

Every season Bayern begin as one of the favourites for the Champions League title, but since their 2013 triumph a pattern has emerged. They get into latter stages before coming up against a Spanish side, who dump them out. Admittedly putting Sevilla at the same level as the Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid sides which have accounted for Bayern in the last four seasons is a stretch, but it’s not hard to see the parallels.

The difference this season is in the dugout. Heynckes was the last man to take Bayern past the quarters and semis, in that 2013 winning campaign. Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti failed to get the Bundesliga side over the hump in subsequent seasons, so it’s up to Heynckes to come back and show everyone how it’s done.

Yet the task in front of him is far from easy. Sevilla may be sixth in La Liga but they will be a tough out. Their home ground is a fortress, and they showed in the previous round against United that they can get crucial away results.

Bayern Munich have a chance to lay down a marker against Sevilla.

Bayern Munich have a chance to lay down a marker against Sevilla.

DO SEVILLA HAVE ANOTHER SURPRISE IN THEM?

Speaking of that result at Old Trafford. As a standalone result it would be a fitting crowning glory for Sevilla’s season, but it would be even better if the 2-1 win were a mere stepping stone.

Sevilla have endured an up-and-down season, stumbling to sixth in La Liga and out of the running for a top four finish. They’ve made a run to the Copa del Rey final but on the domestic front the campaign has largely been a disappointment. Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Barcelona was a microcosm of their season in many ways, as they played well enough to earn their 2-0 lead but didn’t have the resolve to hold onto it.

But in the Champions League, Sevilla have been a different side. The 2-1 win over Manchester United came after they famously fought back from 3-0 down against Liverpool to earn a draw in the group stages, having twice come from behind in a 2-2 draw against the same side in the reverse fixture.

They play with typical intensity, and that ferocity can still take fancied opponents like Bayern by surprise – even after the results they’ve pulled off in this campaign.

Sevilla have it in them to pull off another shock result.

Sevilla have it in them to pull off another shock result.

HEYNCKES LEAVING WITH HEAD HELD HIGH AGAIN

It’s safe to wonder what Bayern could have achieved in the last four seasons if they hadn’t been so keen to usher Heynckes out the door in order to land Guardiola. The German made sure to leave a legacy that would be unmatchable, winning the Treble in the last season of his previous spell and setting a mark that Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti could not possibly top.

Instead, while four more league titles have followed, there has been an overall sense of disappointment because of their European misadventures. It was fitting that Bayern turned to their former hero immediately after suffering their worst defeat in the Champions League group stages in 21 years.

Since then, Bayern have returned to the all-conquering machine they’ve been since the start of what was meant to be Heynckes’ farewell season.

The 72-year-old will leave at the end of the season again, with another Treble a distinct possibility. If he manages to pull that off, it would top the 2012-13 season, given the strength of the competition this year in Europe. But even if he doesn’t, he will yet again leave with his head held high.

Heynckes' rescue job with Bayern this year has only burnished his legacy.

Heynckes’ rescue job with Bayern this year has only burnished his legacy.

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