So, the Champions League final has arrived at last.
The UEFA showpiece in Berlin is packed with global superstars, with the likes of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus ranks, and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez forming a dynamic and deadly trio for Barcelona.
It is also the trophy that will form the final piece to an historic treble for either team that wins: Juventus won Serie A and the Coppa Italia, whereas Barcelona won La Liga and the Copa del Rey. The Champions League will, for one team, seal an already amazing season.
So who should we look out for?
For Juventus, the absence of Giorgio Chiellini, a stalwart in the centre of defence, will be a huge blow to their chances of stopping Barcelona’s playmakers, and indeed winning the trophy itself.
Whoever is brought in by manager Massimiliano Allegri to cover for Chiellini will have the spotlight shone on them. Paul Pogba will also be the focus of many; the French midfielder has rapidly become one of the world’s best, with reports across various media sources suggesting Manchester City, Real Madrid and indeed Barcelona themselves are set to put in huge bids in the summer transfer window.
It will be interesting to see how Pogba, at the age of 22, will handle the huge demands of a Champions League final.
It is incredibly difficult to pick one standout name for this Barcelona team. The likes of Andres Iniesta, Messi and Neymar will all be pivotal players in securing Barcelona’s success in Europe this season.
The front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar have outscored all their rivals this season: combined, they have scored 120 goals and notched up 47 assists. In contrast, the front three of Barcelona’s Champions League opponents Juventus - Tévez, Morata and Llorente, have scored 52 goals, with 14 assists.
However, it is Xavi who will be the most watched player in the Barcelona ranks. Following his emotional farewell speech to the Blaugrana faithful, the Champions League final will provide Xavi with the last chance to bring home another piece of silverware in what has been a stellar career.
How are Juventus supposed to stop Barcelona then?
It is true that Barcelona are favourites for the trophy. However, that does not mean that Juventus can’t win it. In order to stop Barcelona, they have got to make use of the ball when they win it back.
Barcelona prefer to play with the ball and use possession to their advantage: they have averaged 60.7 percent possession throughout the Champions League this season. Therefore, the counter attack will prove to be key in Juventus' chance of success.
If Llorente, Tevez and Morata all play, Llorente can be used as a target man to challenge Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano in the air, and the pace of Morata can be used to get in behind Barcelona’s back line.
Both Llorente and Morata have experience playing against Barcelona, having previously been at clubs in Spain (Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid respectively). Tevez’s sheer unpredictability and ability to produce moments of magic out of the blue could be another way Juventus get a breakthrough.
What’s your prediction?
This is a huge game and thus brings sheer unpredictability with it. Most bookmakers have Barcelona as favourites, but if Juventus turn up then they can, at least, match the very best teams.
As much as I want to say Juventus will win because of their underdog status, I think this game will finish 2-1 in Barcelona’s favour.
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