Even the most ardent Juventus fan will have returned a quizzical look if you had told them last July that 11 months on they would be in the Champions League final with the chance of completing the first treble in the club’s history. Back then, the man who had led them to the Serie A title for each of the past three seasons, Antonio Conte, had stunned the club by walking out right before the start of pre-season.
In his place quickly arrived Massimiliano Allegri, just six months on from being sacked by a struggling Milan. Expectations were low and have already been stunningly exceeded. But having already won Serie A and the Coppa Italia as well as beating Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals, they won’t be ready to just go down easily against a remarkably equipped Barcelona team.
Here are three reasons why Juventus could pull off a famous upset.
Juventus’ preparations for the final were rocked when just two days before taking the field in Berlin, key defender Giorgio Chiellini suffered a calf injury that means he will miss the biggest game of the club season. But all is not lost for Juventus. Andrea Barzagli has also been an injury doubt, but looks set to be passed fit, and brings experience aplenty as the likely replacement. Before Allegri switched formations this season, the 34-year-old Barzagli had been a regular in Juventus’ center-back for the past three seasons. And he should fit seamlessly into a team that, while hardly the stereotypically cynical defensive Italian team, have been a shrewd defensive outfit this season. In their last four Champions League matches, Juventus have scored just four goals.
Against Real Madrid in the semifinals, they comfortably held firm against one of the world’s great attacks in the closing stages at the Bernabeu. Of course, on Saturday they will be coming up against the best front trio on the planet, and quite possibly of all time. But with Allegri’s smart planning and a defense featuring wise heads like Barzagli, Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci and Patrice Evra, Barcelona’s 120-goal trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar may not have it all their own way
Juventus will be aware, though, as they were against Real Madrid, that they cannot simply defend on the edge of their own penalty area for 90 minutes. And Allegri’s men do have the potential to cause problems on the break for Barcelona. In Paul Pogba and the seemingly rejuvenated Arturo Vidal, Juventus have two of the best all-action midfielders in the world, both of whom can help out defensively while also bursting forward to aid the attack. Up front, meanwhile, Juventus have a duo that has developed an impressive relationship in recent months. Between them Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata got all three of Juventus’ goals in the two-legged semifinal and consistently posed Real Madrid a threat. Tevez’s tireless running in particular will ensure the Barcelona backline does not have a peaceful evening, even if the Catalans, as expected, dominate possession. And for Morata there is particular motivation to make an impact having come through the ranks at Barcelona’s arch rivals Real Madrid before departing last summer.
Date with Destiny?
Sports are littered with examples of fairytales being dashed, but there will be a few Juventus players who will quite possibly be fuelled by the belief that lifting the trophy aloft is their destiny. It was in the same Olympiastadion in which the final will take place in Berlin on Saturday that an Italy team featuring current Juventus stars Buffon and Andrea Pirlo lifted the World Cup trophy aloft in 2006. It was only days later that Juventus were relegated to Serie B for the only time in their history following the Calciopoli scandal. Buffon, Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio all stuck with the team in Italy’s second division and have embarked a long road back to prominence, first domestically and now in Europe. Saturday will be Juventus’ first Champions League final since 2003 and represents their return to the pinnacle in Europe after the club’s lowest ebb.