Juve's Paul Pogba hitting form ahead of crucial Malmo clash

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 25, 2014, 11:16 AM IST
Juve's Paul Pogba hitting form ahead of crucial Malmo clash

aul Pogba`s rich vein of form for reshuffled Juventus could prove costly for Malmo but valuable for the Italians when they visit the Swedes looking to keep their Champions League last 16 hopes alive on Wednesday.

French midfielder Pogba struck twice at the weekend when 10-man Juventus outclassed Lazio 3-0 at the Olympic Stadium to pull three points clear of Roma, as coach Massimiliano Allegri continued to tinker with his formation.

Allegri has recently moved away from the 3-5-2 used so efficiently by former coach Antonio Conte in Serie A, but which did little to further the Italian champions` rate of success in Europe`s premier club competition.

Allegri`s decision has been partly due to injuries, although the Italians travel to Sweden on Tuesday hoping to at least reclaim Patrice Evra and Kwadwo Asamoah.

But Pogba, for one, is not complaining.

The French international had been stuck on only one goal in his opening 11 league games but hit a brace playing on the left side of midfield in Allegri`s 4-3-2-1 formation, used for only the second time in succession against Lazio.

Although it is designed to optimise space and goalscoring opportunities for Carlos Tevez, who netted Juve`s other strike, and Fernando Llorente, with Roberto Pereyra playing in the `hole`, Pogba was the biggest beneficiary.

"Now we`re playing much closer to the opponents` goal and it`s better for me," Pogba said after Saturday`s win. "The midfielders play behind the forwards and it helps the guys up front."

Although Conte led Juventus to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2013, the Italian champions risk missing out on the knockout phase for the second year in succession if they lose to Malmo.

On Wednesday Group A leaders Atletico Madrid host Olympiakos, who sit three points adrift in second, looking for the win that would seal their ticket to the last 16.

A Juventus win coupled with an Olympiakos defeat would see Allegri`s men move up to second place with a three-point lead on the Greeks ahead of the final match, when Olympiakos host Malmo and Atletico face Juventus in Turin.

If Juventus and Olympiakos eventually finish the group phase on equal points, the Greeks would go through on a better head-to-head record, given they scored more away goals in the matches between the two sides -- a 1-0 win for the Greeks in Athens and 3-2 success for the Old Lady in Turin.

Given how close the group could be -- it`s even possible for a tie between three teams -- Pogba said there is now no room for error.

"We`ve got no choice, we have to come back from Sweden with three points," he added.

"We just haven`t been efficient enough in the Champions League, something has been lacking.

"But against Olympiacos we showed a lot of spirit, although we have to be more decisive in front of goal."

Allegri is expected to welcome back Evra from an injury lay-off, while Ghanaian Asamoah could also make the trip to Sweden.

If neither are available, the Bianconeri coach could name Simone Padoin at left-back and field roughly the same side that, even after his 70th minute expulsion on Saturday, left Lazio struggling.