The 2015 UEFA Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus is about two clubs trying to complete the treble, but will mostly be about the Italian midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio trying to help their injured defense against the lethal trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Juventus are going to try and end the streak of losing in the final, having been defeated on their last three visits (1997, 1998, 2003), including penalty kicks against AC Milan 12 years ago. A lot of things, including history, project they will lose. Italian teams have clashed with a Spanish team six times in the final. Only twice have the Italian teams won, but the last of which was in 1994, when Milan crushed Cruyff’s Barcelona.
One thing to look at is the corner kicks. Barcelona are traditionally bad at executing corners and scoring off of them, but Juventus have conceded the most in the competition this season (57), while Barcelona are waiting to score their first goal off of a corner. They do have plenty of other ways, so it’s not something they’re really concerned about.
One interesting anecdote is Patrice Evra, who will be playing in the Champions League final for a fifth time in his career. He’s only the second player to do it with three different clubs (Monaco, Manchester United, Juventus). Clarence Seedorf (Ajax, Real Madrid, Milan) is the other. He has two losses against Barcelona in the final. Allegri has a poor record against Barcelona as well, winning only one of his eight Champions League meetings against Barcelona. Fernando Llorente won just once in 20 meetings with Barcelona as an Athletic player, scoring three times.
But Barcelona historically do quite poorly against Juventus, with just two wins in eight meetings. Luis Enrique met Juventus as a manager with Roma three times, never getting a win. But playing against the now four-time Serie A champions in a row is different with the trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez compared to having Francesco Totti and co.
And here is the problem for Juventus, who will be playing with a back four because of the injuries to Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. Ogbonna will start next to Leonardo Bonucci, and the midfield, packed with four central midfielders, will have to be the dam that tries to stop the flood of attacks against a Barcelona team that obviously relies on the goals from the SNM trio, but has been so successful over the last three months because of how well their midfield functions, mostly thanks to Ivan Rakitic.
The Croatian never stops running, and allows Dani Alves to feel a lot less concerned about his defensive duties. A free Alves is a happy one and a dangerous one. Having to deal with Jordi Alba is a headache as well, but Juventus should be strong on the right side as well with Stephan Lichtsteiner, although he might be a little less attacking this time.
There’s no way to actually stop Messi and Neymar and Suarez. There’s getting in their way and making it difficult for them. Slowing things down, breaking up the link up play, things Juventus do very well. But if they try to make this about holding out and trying to carry the match into extra time, they’re doomed. They outplayed Real Madrid to get to the final, they should try to do the same against Barcelona.
Prediction: Even before the Chiellini injury, it was hard seeing Juventus doing it. Now? They do have a splendid midfield that can make things difficult for Barcelona, even with Messi dropping back to help or Xavi coming up from the bench. But as far as quality goes and also form, this Barcelona team does seem unstoppable at this stage of the season, more than ready to complete the treble.