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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Juve put home record on the line against Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus
Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus

Juventus, once a powerhouse of European football, are seeking only their second Champions League last eight appearance since 2006 - the year the club was relegated for matchfixing in Serie A- when they host Borussia Dortmund tonight.

The famous Italian club struggled in the group stage before finishing second behind Atletico Madrid and coach Massimiliano Allegri - who replaced Antonio Conte in the summer - hopes his wealth of Champions League experience, with AC Milan, helps to keep his team in the competition.

"Our group is strong and has grown steadily over these past few years," central defender Giorgio Chiellini said. "Now we also want to show how far we've come on the European scene.

"We must approach the Champions League with enthusiasm, but at the same time be aware of the responsibility we have in flying the flag for Italy in Europe."

In contrast, Dortmund, who have put their domestic difficulties aside on the European stage, are in the last 16 for the third year running after storming through the group stage, losing only one match to finish ahead of Arsenal.

The German side beat Juventus when they last met in the 1997 final, Dortmund claiming its only Champions League title to date.

Juventus may struggle at times on the road in Europe, but it is a different story in Turin, where they hope to exploit their impressive home form to set up a perfect chance to progress in the return leg.

The Bianconeri have turned their arena into a fortress since moving to the purpose-built Juventus Stadium in 2011 and have lost just one of 15 European home fixtures there.

That defeat, however, came against German visitors with a 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals two years ago.

More impressive is the fact that, since that defeat, Juventus are unbeaten in 46 home games in all competitions.

Dortmund have a good away record in the competition, having won five of their last seven on the road. However, after three successive victories, Dortmund appears to have recovered after their worst ever league start and Jurgen Klopp's team has climbed out of the relegation zone. "It will take a while before we find ourselves in a different situation in the Bundesliga," Klopp said. "Until then, the pressure remains. The Champions League is a whole different story."

It can be no coincidence that Dortmund's resurgence comes as star striker Marco Reus (pictured above) returns to form following an injury-plagued year.

He returned in January and has racked up three goals and an assist in Dortmund's last three matches. For now, Reus is fully focused on the matter in hand.

"It's going to be about which team is more focused, which team has more desire," he said. "We have to use the few chances we are going to get against such a good defensive team. We want to get a good result for the second leg."

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