The Italian Job?

BY: Scott McGlynn

Barcelona go head to head with Juventus at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Saturday night as both clubs aim to end their season with Champions League victory. This year’s final has taken on extra importance with both clubs aiming for the treble – Barcelona having already won the La Liga title and the Copa Del Rey and Juventus retaining their Serie A title and lifting the Italian Cup.

The bookmakers have Barcelona odds on to win their fifth Champions League title as they go for a record-breaking second treble but there are factors that give Juventus hope that they can win their first Champions League since 1996.

In the typical ‘Italian style’ Juve are extremely tight at the back and the news today that defender Giorgio Chiellini will miss the final is a blow for the Turin side. However, Chiellini has not been in sparkling form in the Champions League this season and Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri can call upon one of the highly experienced pair of Andrea Barzagli or Angelo Ogbonna to replace him. Barzagli is one of the most technical defenders in European football and it is likely that Allegri will choose him to partner Leonardo Bonucci in central defence. Having only conceded 24 goals in Serie A all season, the Juve defenders know their roles and all function well together as a defensive unit. This has further been exemplified in the Champions League where they have only conceded three goals in their last eight Champions League games, including home and away legs against both Atletico and Real Madrid. Allegri will be hoping that this great defensive work can continue on Saturday against arguably the best attacking three in world football – Neymar, Suarez and Messi.

It is likely that Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata will lead the line for Juventus as they hunt for the goals that could take them to Champions League glory. Tevez will look to stretch the Barcelona defensive pair of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano with his trademark runs to hopefully allow Morata extra time and space. Morata, who joined Juventus from Real Madrid last summer, is aiming to win consecutive Champions League with two different clubs. A scorer in both legs of the semi final against Real Madrid, Barcelona will have to be wary of the danger he poses.

Finally to the managers, Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Enrique has enjoyed a stellar first season at the Nou Camp as he tries to emulate Pep Guardiola and lead Barca to the treble. Statistic wise as a manager however, Enrique has not enjoyed facing either Juventus or Allegri. In his time as manager of Roma, Enrique faced Juventus on three occasions and his team lost all three games. Also in his time at Roma, he went head to head with Allegri twice and again lost both games. It will be interesting to see come Saturday night if Enrique can finally break his Juventus and Allegri duck.

Juventus are 3.6 (13/5) to win the final and can be backed at 6 (5/1) to win in 90 minutes with Alvaro Morata 12 (11/1) to be the first goal scorer. Barcelona are favourites at 1.36 (4/11) to lift the trophy.

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