Juve's hopes rest on Dybala's form

Paulo Dybala (right) names compatriot Lionel Messi as his source of inspiration, but says he wants to improve his own game to win trophies.
Paulo Dybala (right) names compatriot Lionel Messi as his source of inspiration, but says he wants to improve his own game to win trophies.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Argentinian keen to score his first Champions League goal this term in key clash with Messi's Barca

TURIN (Italy) • Juventus star Paulo Dybala has rediscovered his scoring form just in time as he renews his rivalry with fellow Argentinian Lionel Messi in tonight's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

Messi scored two goals as Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 home win over last season's losing finalists in September.

The 30-year-old then scored a hat-trick in Ecuador a month later to lead his country through to the 2018 World Cup.

Dybala was an unused substitute that day, but the 24-year-old will be on the field tonight in Turin, where a win will ensure the Bianconeri reach the knockout rounds.

Barcelona have 10 points to lead Group D by three points with two rounds to go, and they need only a draw in order to advance as group winners.

Dybala made a record start to the Italian Serie A season with 10 goals in six games before suffering a dip in form.

He got back on the scoresheet in the final seconds of Sunday's 3-2 loss at Sampdoria, to bring his tally to 12 goals in 13 games.

Since arriving from Palermo in 2015, the player dubbed The Jewel has scored 56 goals in 112 games.

But he has yet to open his tally in Europe this term. Messi has three this season to join Cristiano Ronaldo in the exclusive club of players who have scored 100 goals in Europe.

Diminutive, dynamic and with a deadly left foot like his idol, Dybala names Messi as a source of inspiration, although he has also spoken about how difficult it is to play alongside the superstar in the Argentinian national team.

Dybala said his comments had been misinterpreted, adding that Messi had laughed off the comments when he tried to explain.

"Leo is like Maradona for those of our generation," Dybala told France Football.

"For me, it's an honour to play with him in the national team."

"He dragged us to the World Cup with the hat-trick in Ecuador.

"He is a born leader."

Dybala has said that he would like to one day play alongside Messi's former Barcelona team-mate Neymar. The pair have long been tipped as heirs to Messi and Ronaldo, who have dominated world football's annual awards in recent years.

"I have to work to improve and win trophies," Dybala said.

"Once, in front of a bonfire with friends, we all made a wish - my own was to win the Ballon d'Or."

As for his future at the six-time defending Italian champions, he added: "In football you never know, but I'm not thinking of going away."

Barca are in top form, having won 11 and drawn one of 12 domestic matches this season to sit four points ahead of Valencia in LaLiga.

Juventus, after their setback at Sampdoria, are third in Serie A.

Veteran defender Andrea Barzagli stressed he and his team-mates have moved on, saying on the club website: "We must not have the momentary lapses that we've had and need that extra something that we haven't always been able to show.

"Juventus-Barcelona is one of those games for which you don't need any extra motivation.

"It will be difficult, but we must get the result we need.

"It is crucial to reach the next round, also for moving forward in the context of the season."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2017, with the headline 'Juve's hopes rest on Dybala's form'. Print Edition | Subscribe