Today, Barcelona will meet Juventus in the biggest football match of 2015; the Champions League Final. The truth is, the final can only be a casual sporting event and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things for us fans, who feel the urge to spectate this moment. We take for granted that for everyone associated with Barcelona and Juventus, this very Saturday could end up being the pinnacle of their careers. I’d like to focus specifically on the players and managers in light of some great work that’s been done in these two clubs.
The final of the Champions League is balanced in terms of desire and on paper. Juventus has a phenomenal backcourt, but Barcelona has one of the best attacking units in the history of the game. Defence wins championships, but so does Lionel Messi, so this is an interesting conundrum to explore.
Consider all the players who have similarities in where they are now. Perhaps this match will truly settle the generational argument between Xavi and Pirlo, 2 midfielders that changed our opinions on how the game is supposed to be played. Maybe we want to see the young players who have already shown us they are capable at the top level, such as Neymar and Paul Pogba, or those who look to reach that level, I’m talking Marc Bartra or Alvaro Morata.
Maybe we’re looking at strikers who wear their heart on their sleeve and bring experience, despite their poor reputation. Carlos Tevez and Luis Suarez come to mind. Maybe there’s players, who, at their peak, were some of the best players in the world, but fitness problems have dropped them off into the second tier. Arturo Vidal and Andres Iniesta both questioned the laws of physics at their best, but can they re-establish themselves at that level on Saturday? Maybe the overlooked fullbacks who have lost some form but have served valiantly for years, handling criticism like true greats of the game. We all hope to see some of the best of Dani Alves and particularly Patrice Evra again.
All there is to say is that often we’re so absorbed in our own world that we never take the time to stop and look into others. We have to see what’s ahead of us but, especially in times of trouble, look to others on the brink of greatness to inspire us and engage us again. Football impersonates that, and that’s why there are millions of people in the sport today. And now that all the motivational speaking is done, let’s get to some analysis.
The misconception that Barcelona is better than Juventus on paper ignores the harmony that has been built by Max Allegri. Allegri was the embodiment of disappointment among the Juventus faithful after his appointment. Fan-favourite Antonio Conte resigned as manager of the club only to be replaced by the former AC Milan coach. Juve had struggles settling into the latter stages of the Champions League due to their heavy reliance on tactics that are rare outside Serie A. Allegri went behind the scenes and completely changed their ideas.
Installing a diamond system to get the best of their harmonious midfielders, Allegri went under the radar and got through matches without stealing the spotlight before his players had the ability to. When the time came, it came well- as the Old Lady comfortably dispatched Borussia Dortmund 5-1. The side displayed everything needed to be a successful side. Great tactics, a dominant midfield and an individual masterclass (Tevez) makes for a good combination, and Juve had just seen what they needed most. The rest is history, as they went on to take current holders Real Madrid and wrapped up their 4th straight Serie A en route to the final.
It really looks interesting in comparison to the Barcelona season, which has been more of a rocky road. Luis Enrique was also appointed after Gerardo Martino resigned from the helm at the Nou Camp, and he quickly became one of the most hated figures in Barcelona. Poor tactics, the overuse of the wrong youngsters and strange defensive purchases made people believe Enrique wasn’t the right man for the job. But then came a match against Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona took the match 3-1 before beginning to pick up. They still weren’t able to match heavyweights Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but people really begun to believe in them. Close to March, Barcelona really struck form, and Messi, Neymar and Suarez fired them to domestic success, the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League final. A win for either side would seal a treble season.
Neither side was one of the favourites to win the competition (Bayern, Real Madrid, Chelsea) but they played with insane heart. Nevertheless, both sides have some great talent, so to celebrate it I have created a match day squad with the two teams in a 4-4-2 formation.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus
Right-Back: Dani Alves, Barcelona
Centre-Back: Gerrard Pique, Barcelona
Centre-Back: Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
Left-Back: Jordi Alba, Barcelona
Right Midfield: Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Centre-Midfield: Paul Pogba, Juventus
Centre-Midfield: Arturo Vidal, Juventus
Left-Midfield: Neymar, Barcelona
Second Striker: Carlos Tevez, Juventus
Striker: Luis Suarez, Barcelona
Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Barcelona
Right-Fullback: Stephan Lichsteiner, Juventus
Centre-Back: Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus
Midfielder: Ivan Rakitic
Midfielder: Andrea Pirlo
Midfielder: Sergio Busquets
Midfielder: Andres Iniesta
Disagree with any of my selections? Let me know in the comment section below. Be sure to watch the Champions League final on Saturday.
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