By: Steve Mitchell
Juventus came through the final game of the Serie A season pretty much unscathed. Their main injury concern being defender Andrea Barzagli who is still suffering from a thigh injury. The Turin giants are monitoring his progress on a “day to day basis” ahead of Saturday’s Champions League Final against Barcelona but seem optimistic that the 34-year-old will be available for selection.
As the build-up begins to the clubs biggest game in 12 years, coach Massimo Allegri will hold an open training session at the J Stadium on Monday in which all media are invited. The huge focus of attention put on the players has already started with the Turin based daily sports newspaper Tuttosport devoting entire editions to the Berlin Final.
On Saturday, Allegri selected a very strong side for their final league game away to Verona, the only regular absentees being Barzagli, Italian international defender Giorgio Chiellini and Spanish striker Alvaro Morata – the game finished in a 2-2 draw. Observers from Barcelona looking for clues as to who Allegri will start with for the final will almost certainly have noted the midfield trio of Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba. The same three players started the second leg of the semi-final away to Real Madrid so it seems inevitable, barring any last minute injuries that they will be in the first XI at the weekend.
Should Barzagli be declared fit for the final, then Allegri has a huge tactical decision to make in defence. He may choose to go with a back three of Chiellini, Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci which would release regular full-backs Stephan Lichtsteinerand Patrice Evra to play in a more advanced attacking role. This would place a huge responsibility on both players to cut off the supply lines of Barcelona in the wide areas and of course to try to stop the world’s greatest player Lionel Messi from stamping his authority on the game, an almost impossible task.
If Juventus decide to go “like for like” with their opponents and play with a traditional back four, Barzagli would almost certainly start the match from the substitutes bench with Lichtsteiner and Evra reverting to their more familiar full-back roles. In this instance, the centre of midfield will be where the battle for supremacy could ultimately win the game. Claudio Marchisio was sensational in the return leg of the semi-final against Real Madrid and if Allegri decides (against the better judgement of many experts) to place a man marker on Messi, then the 29-year-old will surely be the man to do this.
Supporters of I Bianconeri are having a huge task to secure tickets for Saturday’s final showdown. With each club only receiving an official allocation of 14000 seats for the match, the quest to get ones hand on the hottest ticket in club football has caused chaos in Turin. With Juventus offering priority to their 27000 season ticket holders, the online ticketing system crashed on the opening morning of sale leaving fans furious and ticketless.
The club has receivedcriticism from fan groups for only selling match tickets as part of a travel package with flights costing anything up to 800 euros and coach tours starting from around 260 euros. Many fans without tickets will of course, make the trip to Germany to watch the clubs first final appearance since 2003 when the Old Lady lost out on penalty kicks to AC Milan. The question everyone is asking in the build up to the game is how does Allegri plan to stop arguably the greatest club side football has ever seen?