So this coming Saturday (6th June) in Berlin the top team in Italy take on the top side of Spain in the Champions League Final of 2015. It may not be the El Clasico finale a lot of people (including me) were hoping for but it is a match up between two of Europe’s heavyweights who fully deserve to contest the key match of the continents premier cup competition – heres my preview and prediction.
After dominating in Italy (four league titles in a row as well as a Coppa Italia triumph as an add on this season) Juventus have flattered to deceive in the Champions League with quarter final showings their best performances since their last final in 2003. However, newly incumbent manager for this season, Massimiliano Allegri, has most definitely got the best out of a team packed with experience and also with young guns such as Paul Pogba to inject some youthful spirit. As has been their usual want they started off slowly with two defeats in their first three matches and there was a real fear they would fail to qualify from the group stage for the second successive season. However they have been unbeaten since including a 0-3 on their travels drubbing of Borussia Dortmund and the crucial backs to the wall away draws in Monaco and at Real Madrid. Though being strictly fair their performance in the Santiago Bernabeu was more than just a defensive masterclass, as they did go behind, so stepped up the pace, deservedly equalised and probably should have won the match but just getting through was more than enough . As mentioned a first final since 2003 for the Bianconeri and now with their domestic cup win the chance of an historic treble is just 90 / 120 minutes away.
Whilst their Italian opponents have struggled in the Champions League since their last final appearance 12 years ago – a season that saw Barcelona not even qualify for the following seasons competition – since the 04/05 season their record is arguably second to none over the last 10 years (R16, W, R16, SF, W, SF, W, SF, SF, QF) – now at least F!!!!!!! Luis Enrique has done a marvellous job in his first season as the manager of the Catalan side already leading them to a League and cup double. Last winter when they went through a bad run of results up to the turn of the year, with additional reports of a falling out between the main man Lionel Messi and the manager – it seemed his days may well have been numbered – but he has turned things around and his side have only lost two matches since January 4th (and one of those didn’t really matter * – more on that later). The one thing Enrique has learned fast is that if you have players of the quality up top such as Messi, Neymar and Suarez playing them all the time (against any opposition when available) is going to yield results and it has spectacularly – especially if they are being fed by players such as Iniesta and Rakitic – with the latter justifably keeping the legendary Xavi out of the side. Since defeat to PSG back in September in the group stages a run of nine consecutive victories followed only ended by Bayern Munich who beat them 3-2 in the semi-final second leg* – but it was game over by the time the Germans took the lead in the game and at the final whistle it was the team from Spain celebrating their first final since 2011.
So what can be expected for the final. It may be thought that this could be a match where an Immovable Object (Juve) is against an Unstoppable Force (Barca) but the Italians have shown they can play when they need to all season, especially if goals are required and lets be honest Barcelona know how to shut a team down – they conceded only 21 goals in regaining the La Liga title. Barcelona will play their pressing game, how Juventus line up is the question. I don’t think they will just try to defend, but they will look to make it difficult for their opponents but with players like Vidal, Marchisio and the previously mentioned Pogba doing the running and hassling which then allows veteran Andrea Pirlo to weave his magic. I did not see the Italians beating Real Madrid – they managed it but it was close and Barcelona have more weapons especially up top. Juventus’ record in finals of this competition is awful, two time winners but five times runners up – it was defeat on penalties last time against their fierce country rivals AC Milan in 2003. Until their recent three victories, Barcelona also had a poor final record but it now reads four wins out of seven finals. Whatever happens one of these teams will win the treble of their domestic league, cup on top of the Old ‘Big Eared’ Cup.
Well for my prediction I’m going for a 3-1 win for the Barcelona and more final heartbreak for Juventus – don’t worry Juve fans I’m usually wrong – lets hope for a great final.
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