UEFA Champions League Final: Juventus v FC Barcelona - Preview
A mouthwatering contest awaits the global audience this midnight at the Olympiastadion, Berlin, where the Italian giants Juventus take on the Catalan might of FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final showdown.
It promises to be an epic culmination of two clubs rich in football history, who are coincidentally gunning for the prestigious and rare distinction of a ‘treble’. The match which has garnered a great deal of attention and media coverage, will be a welcome relief in the wake of the tumultuous occurrences in FIFA, and a showcasing of different styles of play.
Juventus plays the traditional Italian way of no-nonsense defending while Barca are able architects of the much-revered ‘Tiki taka’ form of possession football and attack. The battle lines have truly been drawn and with less than 24 hours to go before the Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir blows the whistle for the kick-off, the final might prove to be a high octane affair.
Luis Enrique, in his debut season for Barcelona, has literally had the Midas touch and enabled the club to reach new avenues in a season in which the club won the La Liga title quite comfortably.
The recent Copa Del Rey final was also a largely one-sided clash in which Barca got the better of Athletic Bilbao by 3 goals to 1. Enrique will have at his behest, the Argentine ace Lionel Messi who has been in superhuman form, aided by the Brazilian sensation Neymar Jr. and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. The trio, branded as MSN, has been judiciously used by the shrewd Enrique to insane effect, and might yet again prove to be the key in tonight’s finale.
Juventus, on the other hand, managed by the able Massimiliano Allegri, does not necessarily play the most beautiful football portrayed by Barcelona, yet on more occasions than one, they have the uncanny knack of ruffling the feathers of the opposition and coming out on top, which they has made a habit of.
They have shown their strength by winning the Serie A title for the fourth straight season and brushed aside the challenge of Lazio in a nervy Coppa Italia final, winning it 2-1. Their strength lies in the tight defensive leash which can prove daunting to any strike force in the world, even though the experience of Giorgio Chiellini is a missing factor.
Whether the quartet of Patrice Evra, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli (Chiellini’s probable replacement) and Stephan Lichtsteiner can hold ‘MSN’ is something which cannot be guaranteed; but it will undeniably, in my opinion, be the battle which decides as to which outfit would grasp the most precious prize in Europe.
The Olympiastadion in Berlin is a glitzy venue which has a maximum capacity of roughly 75,000. It is the largest international football stadium in Germany. It is the home ground of the football club Hertha Berlin. Its renovation happened due to the fact that it had to host six FIFA World Cup matches, including the final between Italy and France, in the FIFA World Cup, 2006.
June 7, 2015: 12.15 AM (IST)
Predicted Starting Lineups
Juventus (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon (GK) (ITA), Patrice Evra (FRA), Leonardo Bonucci (ITA), Andrea Barzagli (ITA), Stephan Lichtsteiner (SWI), Paul Pogba (FRA), Andrea Pirlo (ITA), Claudio Marchisio (ITA), Arturo Vidal (CHI), Carlos Tevez (ARG), Alvaro Morata (ESP).
Allegri’s side comes into the final after overhauling the holders Real Madrid in a confident defensive display at the Santiago Bernabeu. Barzagli is most likely to replace Chiellini and might be more useful against Messi and co., owing to his stout physique.
In what is going to be a classic tactical battle the team which dominates the midfield could make serious headway. Hence, tonight’s match might witness the metamorphosis of the French prodigy Pogba into a mature player as he is the best equipped to run Barca down and cause them a headache. Carlos Tevez is a matchwinner any day and Alvaro Morata is in prime goalscoring nick, making the striking department strong.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Marc- Andre Ter Stegen (GK) (GER), Jordi Alba (ESP), Javier Mascherano (ARG), Gerard Pique (ESP), Dani Alves (BRA), Sergio Busquets (ESP), Andres Iniesta (ESP), Ivan Rakitic (CRO), Neymar Jr. (BRA), Luis Suarez (URG), Lionel Messi(ARG).
The Catalan heavyweights are bound to rely on their ‘Tiki taka’ style of passing, movement and relentless ball retention to tire down an ageing Juventus lineup. The legend Xavi will most likely find himself warming the bench even though he would be itching to play and sign off a more than fruitful time at the club before he goes on to join the Qatari side Al Sadd next summer.
Luis Enrique might be slightly worried that Bayern Munich managed to come from behind and beat them 3-2 at the Allianz Arena in the second leg of the semifinal. Defensive glitches came to the fore that day, but still it is unlikely that he will tamper with the central defensive duo of Pique and Mascherano. The goalkeeper Ter Stegen has been immensely impressive off late and the fans will look forward to yet another awe-inspiring performance from the young German. Andres Iniesta, along with Messi and Xavi, will aim to lift the trophy for a fourth time and join Clarence Seedorf in the list of such players.
Even though the Bianconneris have an array of talented footballers, few can match Andrea Pirlo, for he is vastly experienced and technically adept. His inch-perfect long balls can cut through any defence. The set pieces he takes are lethal and very seldom do they miss the target. The wily warhorse has boundless energy and aptitude and he might just prove to be the crucial difference in the much-awaited encounter. After all, in a tense situation, all it takes is a Pirlo screamer, as we have seen all these years.
In a star-studded squad, very often the role of certain footballers can be comfortably ignored. The case of Ivan Rakitic is no different. The Croat is the silent orchestrator who pulls the strings in the Barca midfield with effortless ease. A great finisher and striker of the football, he exudes calmness and confidence. He has inherited Xavi’s position since he joined the club this season from Sevilla, and is a constant provider to the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar Jr. The silent role that he plays needs to be lauded and for Barca to win tonight he has to play a vital role.
FC Barcelona will start the match as the clear favourites owing to their red-hot form in the season. However, they cannot underestimate the Italian club as they are more than capable of being the dark horse. On their day, Juventus can beat any opposition. However, I cannot see the taut defence of Juventus holding strong and sound for 90 minutes against the guile of Suarez, the tricks of Neymar Jr. and the class of Messi. Hence in all probabilities chances are that the Blaugranas will prevail in the German capital and the Old Lady (Juventus) would find herself wanting for a record sixth time in the final.
Final score: Juventus 0-2 FC Barcelona