Juventus look to become champions of Europe for the first time since 1996 but standing in their way are Spanish giants Barcelona as these two European heavyweights are set to clash to become this year’s Champions League winners.
The Road to the Final
Back in September. Barcelona’s Champions League campaign got off to a losing start at PSG but it was onwards and upwards for Luis Enrique’s side from there as they wrapped up five wins from their other five group games to finish top of Group F.
Then came the test of German giants Bayern Munich and the trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all their very best as Barcelona crushed the 2013 Champions League winners 3-0 and despite a 3-2 second leg loss, Barcelona were heading to the final.
It also wasn’t the best of starts for Juventus who fell to defeats at Atletico Madrid and Olympiacos but a home win against the Greek side proved crucial as the Serie A side bagged second spot in Group A.
However, when it got to the knockout’s, the Italians stepped it up as they comfortably saw off Borussia Dortmund in the last 16, but then could only manage a narrow 1-0 win over Monaco in the quarter-finals.
You can argue that the Serie A champions enjoyed a relatively easy route to the semi-finals, but then came the real test and Juventus excelled against Real Madrid as a goal from former Real man Alvaro Morata helped the Italians reach their first final in 12 years.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said his side will need to find something to stop the Barcelona attack or else it won’t end well for them.
“Messi, Neymar, Suárez, it’s the usual question since the semi-final – how do you stop them?,” said the 47-year-old.
“We need to be very skilled but we need to recognise we’re not going to draw; we need to score. We need to be strong technically because they’re a technical team and attack is their best weapon so we need to be very, very aware of that.”
The former AC Milan coach also stated his side need to stay focused because one lack of concentration and Barcelona will punish you.
“We need to stay focused for 90 minutes, right until the end,” he said.
“We need to be mentally strong and turn things around because we’re second favourites to Barcelona. It’s a one-off match, no chance to play again, so we need to be fit.
“We are physically fine and the same goes for our mental strength. We need to be good against a great team but, like all teams, they do have faults and weaknesses.”
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique reckons there is not much between the sides and while expects a close game, he believes strength in midfield will decide whether they are winners or losers.
“I imagine we’ll have more possession, we hope to spend more time in their half,” said the Spaniard.
“Midfield is where the game takes shape, whether that’s attack or defence. We have to dominate both the offensive and the defensive side of things. We want to play our game – have the ball, create danger and minimise any opportunities for our opponents.
“We’ll have to play at a high level, it’s going to be a difficult match. Juve have a very similar style to ours, they also need the ball. They’re very good in defence. We know Juve will want and they’re going to pressure us. Who will win depends on who adapts better to those situations.”
Barcelona have been scoring goal after goal through the season both domestically and in the Champions League and Enrique hopes his side keep it up and not let the pressure of a Champions League final get to them.
“We’ve scored lots of goals in the Champions League but we know finals are very different,” he said.
“There is a lot of tension so we’ll have to block that out. The strikers have got all the headlines and that’s natural. To be here today, having already won those two trophies in Spain, the players know you need a squad – we wouldn’t have got here without our defenders too.”
Juventus are without defender Giorgio Chiellini who picked up a calf injury in training during the week and that also means there will be no reunion for Chiellini and Luis Suarez, after the Uruguay striker bit the defender at last summer’s World Cup.
Defender Martin Caceres is also out with an ankle injury, while Andrea Barzagli adds to their defensive worries as the 34-year-old is doubtful due to a thigh injury.
Barcelona have no injury worries ahead of the final with midfielder Xavi set to start as he will put on a Barcelona shirt for the final time after 18 years with the club.
I am really looking forward to the final as Juventus and Barcelona are two very good sides, who have both enjoyed incredible seasons domestically.
I think Chellini is a big miss for the Serie A champions and makes Juventus defensive strength a lot less stronger. It is going to be tough to keep Messi, Neymar and Suarez and the best Juve can hope for is for the trio to have a rare off night.
I don’t think that is going to happen however and I am backing Barcelona to win tonight but Juventus will put up a brave fight. 2-1 to Barca.
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