Juventus head into tonight’s Champions League final against Spanish champions Barcelona in Berlin as underdogs.
Many pundits and experts have predicted that the Italian champions will just roll over in the final, but it is unlikely to be that simple.
One of the main reasons that the Old Lady are underdogs is Barcelona’s outstanding South American front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
The trio have scored 120 goals between them in all competitions this season.
Messi has ten goals in the Champions League, while Neymar is just one behind. The Catalan giants are the first team in the history of the Champions League to have two players score nine goals in one season.
The third member of the trio Luis Suarez also has six goals and three assists in just nine Champions League appearances this season. It is fair to say the trio are difficult to stop. The trident is a defenders worse nightmare.
All three players are match-winners and if one of them has an off-day there is always the other two ready to cause havoc.
The ‘MSN’ as they have been nicknamed, look like an unstoppable force and have caused every defence they have faced problems this season. Few have managed to stop them, but few have the experience of the Juventus defence.
Juventus ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon has been there, done that and bought a few t-shirts in his long career. At 37-years-old he has experienced everything football has to offer with the Old Lady, including life in the second tier of Italian football.
His advancing years have not stopped him keeping six clean sheets in the Champions League and he has conceded just seven goals in the competition this season. Even in the latter stages of his career the ‘keeper is still a reliable performer.
The fact that Buffon usually has the experience of Italian internationals Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in front of him has helped him maintain those clean sheets. Both players are built from the typical rugged Italian defender mould.
They are tough and uncompromisingly. The pair thinks nothing of using every trick in the defenders handbook to prevent opponents from finding the net. Unfortunately for Juve Chiellini will miss the final through a calf injury and he will be a big miss.
Chiellini has history with Suarez, having been bit by the Uruguayan during last summer’s World Cup. His close marking was obviously not to the then-Liverpool strikers liking. The experienced centre-back could be replaced by fellow Italian international Andrea Barzagli in the centre of defence.
Much of the talk prior to this match has been about the Barcelona front three, but lost in that is the fact Juventus have some top quality players of their own.
The Italian champions are not here by luck, they deserve their place in the final. Star midfielder Paul Pogba for example is one of the most in-demand players in world football. The French youngster has been linked with an £80million move to Catalonia this summer.
The 22-year-old has scored ten goals and collected 11 assists this season from his central midfield position. He is sure to have an influence from midfield, alongside the likes of Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio.
The midfield four are all quality players and helped the Italian side stay compact. The Bianconeri are hard to break down when the opposition have the ball, which could be key in the final.
Their biggest attacking threat is likely to come from former-Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez. The 31-year-old is the Bianconeri’s top scorer this season with 29 goals in all competitions. The Argentinian is likely to be partnered by Spanish striker Alvaro Morata.
The 22-year-old has not always been a regular in the Juve side since his summer move, but scored in both legs of their semi-final victory over Real Madrid. The youngster has made a decent start to his career in Turin, having scored 14 times in 40 appearances in all competitions this season.
Juventus heads into this final as underdogs to win the game at odds of 5/1. For me Barcelona may just edge this game, but the Italian champions can definitely not be written off and the Catalan giants are unlikely to have it all their own way in Berlin.
Juventus were not expected to make it this far this season. They have defied the odds before in the competition and it is not out of the realms of possibility they could just do it once again in the final.
Can Juventus upset the odds and win the Champions League?