Yesterday, Juventus received some of the worst possible news ahead of their Champions League final encounter with Spanish giants Barcelona. Unfortunately for the Old Lady, key defender Giorgio Chiellini is set to miss Juve’s game of the season after suffering a pulled calf muscle during Wednesday’s training session. Chiellini will be sorely missed, especially because the experienced Italian international is the backbone of a Juventus defence that have only conceded seven goals on their way to the final.
Juventus’ way to the final can surely not be described as a case of plain sailing, as they only managed to qualify for the next round on the last match day of the group stage by avoiding defeat to Atletico at home. In fact, the team’s general performance during the group stage was somewhat underwhelming for a team that made it to the final. Juventus managed to only win three of their six games, whilst losing two, one each against Atletico Madrid and Greek champions Olympiacos respectively. But, as is often the case, the team improved significantly during the play-offs and suffered no more defeats.
Juventus’ brave and controlled performances ensured victories against some big names such as Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid. Many argue that the team’s hard work and discipline are key factors in making it to Berlin. However, it is also clear to see that Juve boast some of the most intriguing players in key positions. There is no doubt that the team’s midfield is the envy of many across Europe. With veteran Pirlo and French super-talent Paul Pogba in the middle of the park, the combination of highly skilled passing and intelligent running is almost guaranteed in every game. These two are complemented by the likes of Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, both of whom do not seem to be able to stop running. As a result, Juve’s midfield provides exactly what the position was designed for, creativity and a relentless engine.
Even taking a look at the rest of the side makes it rather impossible to criticise the Italian champions, especially given the successful run of games that we have witnessed in recent months. In goal, Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon still looks strong and reliable, despite his age of 37. In defence, the team will miss Chiellini, but there is enough defensive back-up with the likes of Bonucci and Evra looking particularly impressive. Finally, in attack, we can expect Alvaro Morata and a Carlos Tevez, who is in the form of his life, to find the gaps if they present themselves to the lethal strike force. Although the two strikers are nowhere near as dangerous as Barcelona’s front three, they have still managed to score a combined 11 Champions League goals, most of which were decisive.
Barcelona will go into Saturday’s final as clear favourites, but it is important to note that Real Madrid were clear favourites when they took on the Old Lady in the semi-finals. Make no mistake, this Juventus side is resilient like no other opponent Barcelona have faced this season and as a result, the Blaugrana may find it harder to break them down. On the other hand, we have to pay respect to Barca’s attacking talent and despite the positives, Juve will have to hope for an off-day for Messi, who currently plays like someone who was sent to Earth from Planet Football to grace the pitches with his magic. It will be Juve’s toughest match of the season, but that is what one should expect, when a treble is at stake.