The Big Day
On the 6th of June, when the most awaited day of the calendar year for club football finally dawns upon us, there will be more than just the Champion’s League at stake for the competing teams of Barcelona and Juventus. Both these teams will have the chance to join the elite in history in becoming only the 8th team ever to have won the treble i.e. the domestic cup, the domestic league and the Champions League in the same season. So when the final whistle is blown in Berlin this Saturday, the players of one of these teams will have their names etched in the golden books of club football for years to come.
Road to the final
Both the teams had a slightly contrasting campaign this year in their journey to the final.
Juventus were in Group A and narrowly edged a resilient Olympiacos FC by a point to secure a place in the knockout stages. Juventus then faced Dortmund in Round of 16 and easily edged past the German side struggling with their form on an aggregate score of 5-1. A 1-0 win at home followed by 0-0 draw in Monaco was enough to take Juventus past Monaco FC into the semifinals of the competition.
Next up was the daunting challenge of facing the defending champions of the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid. They Italian side had their task cut out against the Spanish giants in having to deal with an in form Cristiano Ronaldo. However, as it was to be, the headlines were stolen by Alvaro Morata who scored in both the legs to come back to haunt his old employers and cut short their dream of defending the title successfully. Ironically, the second of those goals came at the Santiago Bernabeu, and proved to be decisive.
Barcelona on the other hand avoided an early PSG scare to top the Group F to set up an encounter with Manchester City. A brace from Suarez as he returned to the realms of English football at the Etihad and a Rakitic goal at Camp Nou ensured a safe passage to the quarterfinals for Barcelona. Barcelona faced their fellow group members in PSG next and a brace each from Suarez and Neymar in the French capital and the Camp Nou respectively meant that Barca were through to the semifinals on aggregate score of 5-1.
Next up was Bayern Munich, the German Powerhouse. However, things didn’t turn out in the favor of the German team as 3-0 away deficit proved too much for them to recover and they eventually bowed out with 3-2 win in the home leg.
Key Players and Story lines to follow
As far as the odds are concerned, it has to be said that Juventus can be thought of as clear underdogs to lift the trophy in Berlin this weekend. While Juventus drew their last match before the big one with Verona, Barcelona steered past Athletico pretty easily to lift the Copa Del Rey trophy. Anyone who has seen the match would testify the fact that it was indeed the face of God playing inside Messi that day and his goal was something that can be least explained by the phrase “ out of this world”.
Without a shadow of doubt, if Juventus are to have any chance of getting past the Spanish challenge, they will have to make sure that they deal with Messi in a proper fashion. Another interesting storyline also closely being followed is the case of Suarez who reunites with Chiellini after the world cup biting incident which led to a lengthy ban on the Uruguayan. Pretty sure a lot of people will be closely eyeing the pre-game handshakes.
Also with Suarez deciding to leave Liverpool after leading them to one the Champions League places last season, it will noteworthy to see if his ultimate dream of winning the coveted trophy is realized or not?
This will also be the last game in Barca colors for Xavi who heads to Qatar after the end of this season to join the Qatari outfit Al-Sadd. Xavi who came through the ranks at the Barcelona Youth Academy would be looking to add another trophy to his already existing array of 25, the highest for any Spanish player and bid goodbye to the Catalan’s fans in the perfect manner.
However Juventus would be looking to spoil all of these dream scenarios’ and take the Champions League trophy back to Italy after 4 years and win it for the third time, the last time being way back in 1996.
Juventus will have in their ranks the true gentleman of the beautiful game, Andre Pirlo marshaling their troops in what could be his last Champions League final with age catching up with him. Another player who will be closely followed will be Carloz Tevez, who has often come up with the goods previously multiple times on big match occasions.
Past record in UCL finals
Juventus have a not so good record in the finals of the European competition winning only 2 of the 7 they have played in while Barcelona have won double the number as their counterparts having been involved in the same number of finals.
With so many storylines and so many subplots, this is bound to be one exciting final. Berlin is going to be buzzing this Saturday. The only question is whose side are you on?
Juventus win 2-1.
By Parth Madan