You could be forgiven for thinking that all Barcelona have to do is turn up in Berlin on June 6th to carry home the Champions League trophy without too much complication. This seems to be the consensus view of the football analysts all around Europe who have more or less written off the chances of “La Vecchia Signora” (the Old Lady as Juventus are nicknamed).
But not so fast, as they say. Juventus are notoriously hard to beat and have proved particularly dogged in this competition so far – as previous holders and cup favourites Real Madrid found to their cost over two legs in the semi-finals.
The fact that Juventus haven’t had a huge amount of competition on their home soil may be an advantage. In short, they’ve had a relatively restful season comparted with their Catalan counterparts who had to battle hard to emerge victorious in La Liga. In the Serie A betting, Juventus were hot favourites this season and will be again next season – and they have proved worthy of that honour in winning the Italian league at a relative canter.
In Spain, however, Barca had to fight hard all season long to win out in the end by two points from perennial rivals Real. Their season has been long and exhausting and for a team that relies on quick passing and intense football for 90 minutes. The hard season could end up costing them dear in Berlin. In short, they could well fall at the final hurdle to a Juventus side renowned for its ability to win games whatever the cost. And that cost is usually unattractive football, a high degree of “gamesmanship” and a lot of writhing in agony following faux fouls.
But so be it. This is always the way with the Italian powerhouse and when the chips are down, they do whatever it takes. And for the neutrals, this all adds to a wonderfully entertaining spectacle. The beautiful game may suffer a little as Messi (pictured above) and co. get somewhat stifled and hacked to the ground now and again – but the spectacle of panache versus persistence doggedness is interesting nonetheless.
And don’t forget that the weight of history shows it to be a far more even contest than the odds suggest. In the all-time head-to-head between the two clubs, Juventus have won four times, to Barca’s three, with two draws. That said, the two clubs haven’t met since back in 2003 when they played twice in the Champions League and drew 1-1 on both occasions. That time, Juventus went through 2-1 after extra time – and this kind of proves our point; the Old Lady does what she needs to emerge victorious.
Barcelona haven’t appeared in the Champions League final since 2011 when they beat Manchester United 3-1. Meanwhile, Juve’s last final appearance was 12 years ago when they lost on penalties to fierce rivals A.C. Milan after a typically Italian 0-0 draw.
Of course, Barca have a very special player in the shape of the all-time Champions League top scorer Lionel Messi. But Juventus have prolific scores of their own in the shape of Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata and they have a winning mentality.