The Olympiastadion in Berlin lights up on Saturday night as the Italian champions get ready to face off against the Spanish champions for the crown of Europe and a chance to achieve the highly sought after treble.
Juventus have made it to the Champions League final against all odds this season and there were not many people who would have expected them to be one game away from lifting the title. The Bianconeri have been the strongest force in Italy for the past few years but they were yet to reclaim their position among Europe's elite, ever since the match fixing scandal back in 2009. But it's safe to say that Massimiliano Allegri's side have proved their doubters wrong and have deservedly made their way into this year's final. The faced Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 and it is safe to say that Jurgen Klopp's side were no match for Juventus over the two legs. Juventus won both at home and away to secure a place in the quarter finals where the faced Leonardo Jardim's AS Monaco. AS Monaco had knocked out Arsenal in the previous round and it was set to be a well matched fixture. The two sides played out a dull quarter final over the two legs with just one goal between them, scored by Arturo Vidal from the penalty spot. Allegri's side however, faced the toughest challenge of the tournament till date when they were tied with last year's champions Real Madrid. Many thought that this would be the end of Juventus' journey in the Champions League but Massimiliano Allegri had a few tricks up his sleeve. The Bianconeri won the first leg at home thanks to a 2-1 scoreline before securing a dramatci 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu in the second leg to knock the champions out. To add insult to injury for Los Blancos, it was their former striker Alvaro Morata who scored in both legs to ensure Juventus' place in the final. After last months Coppa Italia victory against Lazio, Juventus now have two major titles in the bag and are one of only two sides fighting for the treble this season.
Juventus have the treble in their sights but achieving that goal will not be an easy task in any way. Coach Massimiliano Allegri is well aware of the challenge ahead of them and will require a few more tricks of the same caliber as Juventus pulled off in the game against Real Madrid. Juventus' gameplan over the two legs against Real Madrid was almost perfect with the Bianconeri maintaining the perfect balance between defense and offense. And the same approach could be useful in this game. The four man midfield used by Juventus will be the key in this game as Allegri will look to effectively stop Barcelona from playing through the center and force them to the wider areas. In defensive areas, Juventus like to play with the same four man midfield taking on a flatter shape and will look to isolate the Barcelona front three and that is probably the best way to stop them. But Allegri also knows that when one is up against the best player in the world, one requires a bit of luck as well. If they can effectively break the link up play between the Barcelona trio then they have a good chance to build from the back and try to hit the Blaugrana on the counter. The Bianconeri will again utilize the long ball tactics to launch early counter attacks and make the most of Carls Tevez and Alvaro Morata's pace. In attack, chances will be scarce and Allegri will be hoping that his strikers have their shooting boots on so they can take advantage of any scoring opportunity. Juventus have enough quality to cause problems for Barca, and have a good chance of scoring in this game as well, but with the absence of Chiellini in mind, Barcelona's attacking force might be too much for them to handle.
Juventus have been in excellent condition in recent weeks picking up three wins in their last five games ain all competitions while drawing on two occassions. The latest of those draws came in their last game against Hellas Verona where the game ended with a 2-2 scoreline, on the final matchday of the Serie A.
FC Barcelona have been one of the most dominant sides in Europe for the past decade. In this time period, they have always been one of the favorites to reach the final and lift the Champions League trophy. However, the past four campigns in Europe have ended in disappointments for the Blaugrana. At the start of this campaign, under new boss Luis Enrique, things were not very bright for them either. The Catalans started the season well but there were sings early on that the players and the coach were not on the same page. At times, it seemed as if the players went out ont he pitch without any clear gameplan and Luis Enrique came under a lot of pressure and criticism for his decisions. Things boiled over at the turn of the new year when the Blaugrana lost a very important league game away from home in a very disappointing fashion. But that loss appeared to have a very positive affect on their overall campaign as the Blaugrana have not looked back since. Fast forward to the end of the campaign and they have already lifted the league title as well as the Copa del Rey and are now targeting the treble. They made their way to the final after knocking out three different national champions from last season. They faced Manchester City in the round of 16 and were too strong for the English champions, winning 3-1 on aggregate. They were then tied against French champions Paris St. Germain in the quarter finals. But Laurent Blanc's side were no match for the Catalans either losing 5-1 on aggregate. The semi finals saw the homecoming of Pep Guardiola to the Camp Nou as Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona fought it out for a place in the final. Lionel Messi, in what was one of his greatest Champions League performances, lead Barcelona to a massive 3-0 victory at home before the Catalans won the overall tie with a 5-3 aggregate after losing the second leg.
FC Barcelona go into this game boasting the best attack in the world and what some claim is the best attacking trip the world has ever seen. Even if they are not the best ever, they are still pretty deadly which is evident from their recent crossing of the 120 goals mark. And the trident will be motivated to put on one last show and complete the treble. For Luis Enrique, the squad selection will be fairly simple and straight forward. He has a fully fit squad and field hsi most tested and strongest starting XI. The real key for Barcelona in this game is whether or not the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez are playing to the same tune. But, it is not as simple as that because Luis Enrique will have to deploy the best tactics to counter Allegri's tactics in the midfield. As previously mentioned, Juventus will look to start with a four man midfield transitioning to a flat four in defense and a modified front three as Vidal joins the two strikers in attacking movements. They will look to separate the Barca front three in order to break their link up play. Barcelona could in turn look to add more players to the midfield and we could see Lionel Messi move to central areas more often in this game. Ivan Rakitic, Dani Alves and Lionel Messi are often seen interchanging their positions during the game and that could be vital here to disrupt the organisation fo the Juventus midfield. The attacking runs from Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr will also be key in this game as they drag player to open space in the central areas. Busquets will be seated in front of the defense as always to break play and close down channels but Barca will be vulnerable in the space behind the Spanish midfielder and the central defenders which is exactly where Carlos Tevez & Morata will look to operate and will be interesting to see how Barca deal with that threat. All in all the two teams are balanced in most areas of the pitch but the attacking threat posed by the front three could be enough to seal victory for FC Barcelona.
FC Barcelona have been in excellent form themselves ahead of this game winning three of their last five games in all competitions while losing one and drawing the other. That loss came against Bayern Munich in the 2nd leg of the Champions League semi final although it was of no consequence. Their last game was the 3-1 win in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.
Juventus were dealt a blow just 2 days before the Champions League final as defender Giorgio Chiellini was ruled out for this game. He joins former Barcelona defender Martin caceres on the treatment table and is set to miss out. Andrea Barzagli has returned to training, however, and will be a direct replacement for Chiellini in the center of defense alongside Leonardo Bonucci. Andrea Pirlo, who could be playing his final game for the club, is set to start this game and will complete the midfield quartet alongside Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal as Allegri is expected to stick with his 4-3-1-2 formation. Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata are also expected to start with Fernando Llorente starting on the bench.
FC Barcelona have no real injury worries ahead of this game. Coach Luis Enrique has a fully fit squad to chose from and has the luxury of starting with his strongest XI. There were some doubts over the fitness of Andres Iniesta but he is expected to be fit to start this game alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. Xavi Hernandez could play a minor role in the second half of the game in what would be his final game for the club. Javier Mascherano will retain his starting role in the center of defense ahead of Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu while Marc Andre ter-Stegen will also retain his position. The trio of Leo Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez are undisputed starters for the Blaugrana.
DATE: June 6, 2015
TIME: 7:45 PM GMT
VENUE: Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
REFEREE: Cuneyt Cakir
Juventus (4-3-1-2):- Buffon; Evra, Barzagli, Bonucci, Lichsteiner; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Vidal; Tevez, Morata
FC Barcelona (4-3-3):- ter-Stegen; Alba, Mascherano, Pique, Alves; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic; Neymar, Suarez, Messi
LAST MEETING: April 22, 2003 | UEFA Champions League | FC Barcelona 1-2 Juventus
Juventus:- D W W W D
FC Barcelona:- W D W L W
AUTHOR's PREDICTION: Juventus 1-3 FC Barcelona