Barcelona take on Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on Saturday. Here we look at Thursday’s build-up.
Chiellini out of final
Much had been made of Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini’s potential reunion with Barca forward Luis Suarez following the latter’s infamous bite of the Italy international at last year’s World Cup. However, they will not renew acquaintances on the pitch after Chiellini was ruled out with a calf problem sustained in training.
Iniesta included in Barca squad
Andres Iniesta had been a doubt for the Spanish champions because of a calf injury of his own, but the midfielder has been named in Barca’s squad after returning to training on Thursday.
Match ball unveiled as fans arrive in Berlin
Fans arriving in Berlin were treated to the opening of the annual Champions League festival at the Brandenburg Gate, where the match ball for the final – which features multicoloured stars instead of black ones – was unveiled.
De Marchi’s long march continues
One fan not yet in the German capital is Juve supporter Nicolo De Marchi, who is walking the majority of the 683 miles from Turin to Berlin for a ticket. De Marchi, who has used a bicycle for parts of his journey, posted a picture of himself on Instagram on Thursday with the caption: “the fatigue is so great… arrival postponed to tomorrow”.
Figo removed from legends team
Barcelona fans hold grudges for a long time. Luis Figo’s move from Camp Nou to Real Madrid in 2000 made him public enemy number one in Catalonia. And apparently that is still the case. UEFA have granted a request from Barcelona to have the former Portugal midfielder removed from a combined Barca and Juve legends team to face a World XI on Friday after his selection drew the ire of suppporters.
Busquets my natural replacement – Xavi
The final will mark Xavi’s last appearance for Barcelona following a storied career with the club he joined as an 11-year-old. And the veteran has already anointed team-mate Sergio Busquets as his successor as the leader in the changing room. He told UEFA’s official website: “I think he’s [Busquets] my natural replacement in the dressing room and on the pitch. He’s destined to be the leader for Barcelona for the next decade, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Zidane cheering for Juve
In unsurprising news, Zinedine Zidane has given Juve his backing ahead of the final. The France legend left Juve for Barca’s arch rivals Real in 2001 and told RMC Sport: “I spent five years in Turin, so I hope they do well on Saturday.”
Juve not a traditional Italian team
Many may expect Juve to park a large Italian bus in front of the goal on Saturday, but Barca midfielder Javier Mascherano says the Serie A champions have more to their game than strong defensive capabilities. “It [Juve] is not a traditional Italian team,” Mascherano told UEFA’s official website. “They play like Italians but they have a lot of talent, they know how to attack and they can play in different ways. They have lots of variety and that makes them very difficult to play against.”
Pirlo hoping to relive World Cup emotions
Like Xavi, Andrea Pirlo could also play his last game for his current club. The Juve midfielder is reportedly set to accept an offer from MLS franchise New York City FC. For now, though, he is focused on enjoying another positive experience at the Olympic Stadium after winning the World Cup with Italy at the same venue in 2006. “Many years have passed since Berlin,” Pirlo said. “But the memory of that magical night remains indelible and I hope to live the same emotions.”
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