Saturday 6th June – 19:45 – Olympiastadion
Juventus and Barcelona are both looking to complete a stunning treble when they meet in Saturday’s Champions League final in Berlin. The Serie A and La Liga champions also won their domestic cups, with Juventus looking for their first-ever treble, while Barcelona are aiming to repeat their feat under Pep Guardiola in 2009. Juventus have already seen off Spanish opposition, booking their place in the final with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Real Madrid, after Alvaro Morata’s goal gave them the draw they needed at the Bernabeu. Massimo Allegri lost two games in the group stage and ended up scraping through in second, just one point ahead of Olympiakos, but their good organisation and high work rate has seen them head all the way to Berlin. Barca, meanwhile, won Group F as they took victory in five of their six group games – their only blip coming in the form of a 3-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain. They beat Bayern Munich 5-3 over two legs in the last round despite a 3-2 defeat in the second game. Their run to the final has seen them beat the reigning champions from three of Europe’s big leagues, with the Italian champions the only ones standing in their way of a second treble. Juventus have previously won the Champions League twice (most recently in 1996), whilst Barca are four times winners (most recently 2011), but only one team can finish of the 2014-15 season by making history.
- Allegri’s side are without defender Giorgio Chiellini, who has been ruled out with a torn calf muscle, meaning he will not face Luis Suarez, the man who bit him at the World Cup last summer.
- Andrea Barzagli could replace Chiellini in the Juventus defence as he makes the squad, but the centre-back is fighting to be fit after recovering from a thigh strain.
- Martin Caceres was ruled out for the season when he fractured his ankle in March, whilst Kwadwo Asamoah has not been named in the squad.
- Luis Suarez should available after he recovered from a hamstring injury to play in their 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in last week’s Copa del Rey final.
- Luis Enrique will be sweating over the fitness of Andres Iniesta, who picked up a calf injury in Saturday’s game, but the midfielder returned to training on Thursday and looks set to start
- The final will see Xavi play his last ever game for Barcelona after 17 years at the club, but the Spaniard may not necessarily start.
The Key Battle: Gianluigi Buffon vs Lionel Messi
Despite playing over 500 games for Juventus over 14 years, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has never won the Champions League, the only piece of silverware to be missing from his trophy cabinet which includes six Serie A titles and a World Cup winners medal.
At 37 years old, this could be his last chance to get his hands on the trophy, and his reaction after the semi-final win over Real Madrid shows how much this means to the Italian, who is considered one of the best goalkeepers in modern football.
But the man he is coming up against is out of this world, and someone who even Manuel Neuer, another incredible goalkeeper, couldn’t keep out in the semi-final. It is of course, four time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi, who Buffon referred to as “an extra-terrestrial who plays with us humans”.
Part of Barca’s outrageous striking trio along with Neymar and Luis Suarez, the Argentinian will become the all-time top goalscorer in Champions League history if he hits the back of the net in Berlin.
Messi already has 10 goals in 12 games in this competition in 2014-15, and if Barcelona need a bit of magic, there’s no doubt who they will rely on. Can Lionel be the star of the show to claim his fourth Champions League winners medal?
Juventus wins = 4 / Barcelona wins = 3 / Draws = 2
Last Meeting: Barcelona 1-2 Juventus AET (22nd April 2003)
Ten-man Juventus booked their place in the Champions League semi-finals with a dramatic extra-time victory over Barcelona in front of 98,000 at the Nou Camp. The first leg in Turin had finished 1-1 so the tie was delicately poised. Substitute striker Marcelo Zalayeta scored the winner for the Italians after the Spaniards had staged a magnificent comeback. Barca responded excellently to Pavel Nedved’s second-half opener, with Xavi deservedly restoring parity for the hosts. But despite the sending-off of Edgar Davids for a second bookable offence 10 minutes from time, Juventus defended superbly and had goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to thank for two brilliant saves in extra time. They went on to beat Real Madrid in the semi-finals but lost on penalties to AC Milan in the final. They have not made the final since until this year.
Stat of the Match
This will be the 7th European Cup/Champions League final between an Italian side and a Spanish one: Italian teams have won only twice.
Where can I watch it?
Like last weekend’s FA Cup Final there’s two options. You can either tune in to Sky Sports 1 at 6pm with kick-off at 7:45pm or ITV at 7pm, meaning the match starts 45 minutes later. The highlights are also on ITV at 11:15pm.
My Prediction: Juventus 1-2 Barcelona
Juventus showed in the semi-final against Real Madrid that they are not to be taken lightly and will certainly put up a fight to win a first Champions League crown in 19 years. But ultimately, I can’t see anyone beating Barcelona in their current form, especially with the deadly Messi, Suarez and Neymar upfront. They are currently the best team in Europe by a long way, so should deservedly lift the crown in Berlin. The match will be close though, with Carlos Tevez scoring for Juve, and Messi and Neymar hitting the back of the net for Barca.