Either of Barcelona or Juventus will complete a treble of trophies on Saturday when they meet in the final of the Uefa Champions League having clinched league and cup doubles in their respective domestic campaigns.
Whichever way the game goes, both teams have had impressive seasons, worthy of note for their ability to prove cynics wrong, post groundbreaking achievements and raise the bar for others to follow.
It is 12 years since Juventus last featured in the title match of Europe’s elite competition- a period which witnessed three successful campaigns by their opponents- but the Old Lady, banking on experience, have locked in on a possible third European Cup triumph. Juve last won the title in 1996 (defeated Ajax on penalty) and it’s been five years since an Italian team reached the final following Inter Milan’s success in 2010. Expectations are high back in Italy as we count down to another spectacle.
Barcelona are the unofficial team of the last decade in European football. They arrive in Berlin possessing all the necessary ingredient required for a final flourish to what has been an historical campaign. In Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, they boast one of the best front-three partnership of all time with a net 120 goal haul in all competitions.
Barca last won the treble in coach Pep Guardiola’s first season as the Catalans’ boss (2008-09), a feat current manager Luis Enrique wants to replicate and become the eighth man to ever reach the landmark.
Unlike Juve, the four-time winners have no injury concerns as Enrique has named a 26-man hale and hearty party for the showdown at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, with Andrés Iniesta included after recovering from a slight knock.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini on the other hand has been ruled out due to a calf injury, while either Angelo Ogbonna or Andrea Barzagli wait patiently expecting to start in place of the Italian.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri has downplayed the season-long concern about stopping Barca’s aforementioned deadly trio. Italian teams are best known for their defensive capabilities, but the Italian boss wants to take the game to the Baulgranas.
“How to stop Barcelona? We need to think how to score. We need to be technically skilled because they’re a technical team and attack is their best weapon so we need to be very, very good at that,” Allegri said in his pre-match press conference.
“Messi, Neymar, Suárez, the usual question since the semi-final – how do you stop them? We need to be very skilled but we need to recognise we’re not going to draw; we need to score.”
With Chiellini obviously sidelined, Allegri will have no choice but to resort to possession game and no other but the maestro, Andrea Pirlo, holds the key to his game plans in that sense.
But taking the ball away from Barcelona remains a daunting task for Juve and Enrique has ruled out playing into their opponents’ hands.
“I think we will have more possession; we hope to spend more time in their half. 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, they’re very resourceful and that’s why they’re in the same position as us – they can win the treble too. We’ll have to see what happens,” Enrique said.
“We’ve scored lots of goals in the Champions League but we know finals are very different; there’s a lot of tension so we’ll have to block that out. We know that throughout the match we’ll find a Juve who wants to have the ball and they’re going to pressure us. Who will win depends on who adapts better to those situations.”
The Serie A side will however be relying on their front partnership of Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata. Spaniard, Morata, will be looking to become just the third player to win successive Champions League titles with two different clubs. He was a second-half substitute in last season’s final, when Real Madrid defeated Atlético Madrid. Tevez was a winner with Manchester United in the Rome final in 2009 and has scored seven times already this season. The pair have contributed eleven goals for Juventus this season.
Ivan Rakitic has a huge role to play for Barcelona in the final, the Croatian midfielder was an Europa League winner with Sevilla last season and will be hoping to make an impact for Juventus.