Will Barcelona or Juventus triumph in the Champions League Final?
Seventy-five teams who entered this season’s Champions League tournament have been whittled down to just two, with Barcelona set to meet Juventus in what promises to be an intriguing Final in Berlin on June 6th.
Two different brands of football will come face-to-face as Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri have high aspirations of securing further glory for two prestigious clubs with considerable European pedigree. Very few would feel surprised that Barcelona have gone all the way, but the same could not be said for Juventus who have confirmed their return to the top in some style by reaching the final.
Bookies will keep fans up to date with special offers across the market, and while the inevitable La Liga champions have already been installed as clear favourites, the Bianconeri, who have recently secured their fourth consecutive Serie A title in a row, should not be written off by any means.
Although the 3-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in Week 2 of the Group Stages may have raised concerns over Barcelona’s credentials to be serious Champions League contenders, the result merely kicked them into complete overdrive as their infamous tiki-taka, free-flowing style of play returned with a bang.
Luis Enrique’s side have since came out all guns blazing and stormed their way to Berlin, winning their next eight European fixtures in a row following the disappointment in Paris which saw them overcome Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in the knock-out stages.
Gaining revenge over the latter was valued as sweet revenge for the heartache created by the Bundesliga side in 2012/2013 following the humbling 7-0 aggregate defeat, but with undoubtedly the best attacking trio in the world at their disposal, Barcelona will be extremely difficult to stop.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have scored over 100 goals between them this season, and with Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings in midfield, they have recaptured the fluidity, attacking pace and ruthless streak in front of goal which may see them overwhelm Juventus in the final to secure their 5th Champions League trophy.
Juventus’ return to prominence
Few outside of Turin expected the Bianconeri to have enough quality to reach the final on June 6th, particularly after they lost consecutive away fixtures in the Group Stages at Atletico Madrid and Olympiakos to leave them with just three points from a possible nine.
However, Juventus have shown their true quality to not only bounce back and progress to the knock-out stages, but also get past Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid on their way to setting up a mouth-watering clash against Barcelona in Berlin.
Their ability to play as a team and show superb defensive resilience made all the difference against a Real Madrid side who were strongly fancied to set up the first European-based El Clasico Final, but Juventus also illustrated their attacking qualities by creating numerous problems against Carlo Ancelotti’s side and thoroughly deserved to progress as the better team over the two legs.
Facing Barcelona may be a different animal altogether, and it may need Gianluigi Buffon, who is still chasing his first Champions League winners medal, and his defence to hold firm to shackle arguably the best attacking line-ups in the world.
Allegri has often been criticised for being too negative, particularly during his time as AC Milan manager, but he has recently shown a different side to his psyche by being adventurous and allowing the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez to have freedom to express themselves and lead from the front.
All three will be integral to Juventus’ chances of upsetting the odds, but if the Bianconeri put in the same level of performance in the Final as they did at the Bernabeu, then Barcelona may not have it their own way.