The 2015 Champions League final on Saturday sees both Barcelona and Juventus competing in their eighth final in this competition and with one side guaranteed to accomplish the treble this season.
Barcelona have a 4-3 record in this competition, winning their last three (2006, 2009, 2011) in an era of superstar after superstar. Luis Enrique is only in his first season in charge at Camp Nou, but now manages the best team in the world having been able to get the best out of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in attack.
Juventus have only won two of their seven European Cup/Champions League finals, losing their last three, and head to Berlin as the underdogs this weekend. Max Allegri, also in his first season at the Juventus Stadium, has continued with the same solid defence that Antonio Conte left behind and is getting good production out of his attack.
The Freebetsodds Champion league index has Barcelona as the obvious favourites to win the Champions League but if you are a smart punter you will find profit in several cheeky bets against the champions. There’s a good chance that the first half will be goal-less given Juventus’s desire to stifle Barcelona, and there’s also a very good chance that Juventus will score first (even if they eventually succumb to a Messi/Suarez/Neymar blitz).
Where the Match Will Be Won
Barcelona attack vs Juventus defence: The Italian side defended very well in upsetting Real Madrid in the semi-finals but have a mammoth task if they’re to keep Barcelona out in the final.
Lionel Messi cutting in and drifting in from the right wing will give Patrice Evra and a midfielder a torrid game down that side. The Argentine it looking to become the first player to score in three separate Champions League finals and is this season’s joint-top scorer with 10 goals.
Luis Suarez has been lethal in recent months for Barcelona playing the central role in attack. Like Messi, he’s excellent when running with the ball and also one of the best finishers the game has ever seen. His pace and movement and the players pinging balls to him are going to make it a nightmare for the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at centre-back for the Serie A champions.
If two of the best forwards in the world wasn’t enough, Barcelona have a third in Neymar. The Brazilian has been very productive in front of goal this season, by way of both goals and assists. He’s quick, likes to take a tumble and has a good eye for goal cutting in from the left. Stephen Lichtsteiner cannot afford to be too aggressive going forward from right-back.
Not many are giving the Italian side much chance in the final, but if they are to pull off an upset, a few things need to go their way.
Either Gianluigi Buffon needs to put in one of the best performances of his career in between the sticks, or the back four and defensive midfield need to somehow tame the Barcelona attack. They proved they could do so in only conceding two over 180 minutes versus Real Madrid, but the Catalan side are a whole different kettle of fish.
Once that’s sorted, the counter-attack game needs to work in Juventus’ favour. It’s actually a good match up on paper for Allegri’s side – if only they see some of the ball and aren’t camped in their own half for the majority of the match like we expect. Carlos Tevez versus Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Morata finding space where Dani Alves has bombed forward favour the Italian side. They have the likes of Andrea Pirlo to ping the balls forward, but they’ll need discipline from the likes of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal to shut up shop at the back before they can attempt to hit the 2014-15 La Liga champions on the break.