Nobody really expected to see Juventus vying for the Champions League trophy, but having come this far, the Bianconeri can be trusted to give their all in an attempt to win a historic treble of titles at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. It is Barcelona that head into the highly-anticipated clash as odds on favourites, with the Catalans hoping to give a perfect sending off to club icon Xavi Hernandez by lifting the coveted trophy.
Following three very successful seasons under Antonio Conte, there were many Juventus fans that were quite apprehensive about Max Allegri’s ability to lead the Italy’s most famous club to glory, but the former AC Milan coach has done much better than anyone could predict. The talented tactician led the Bianconeri to the fourth successive league trophy, while the team also came from a losing position to reach the Coppa Italia final before pipping Lazio to the title. But, it is their Champions League run that has been by far the most impressive achievement of the campaign, with Juventus having eliminated Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid to reach the final Champions League final since 2003. However, team’s preparations for the game of the season have been disrupted by the injury to key defender Giorgio Chiellini, who has been ruled out through a calf problem. And with Andrea Barzagli not even close to full fitness, Max Allegri has a difficult decision to make with regards to who will partner Leonardo Bonucci in the heart of defence. The problems at the back are the last thing Juventus need when facing the most ruthless attacking trio in world football, so I seriously doubt they will find a way to compensate for the defensive issues.
Just like their next opponents, Barcelona have profited from changing the coaching personnel last summer, with Luis Enrique overcoming initial difficulties to turn his team into a well-oiled machine. The coach was brave enough to discard the club’s famous tiqui-taca approach in favour of adopting a more direct style of play, while his decision to move Leo Messi to right wing also produced amazing results. The Catalans in turn eased off to La Liga and Copa del Rey trophies, and having been incredibly consistent throughout the season, they definitely look capable of defeating Juventus in the Champions League final. The good news is that Luis Enrique will have all key men available after Andres Iniesta recovered from injury, while Xavi Hernandez will make his final appearance for the club before he leaves for Al-Sadd. The coach is expected to field the same side that defeated Athletic in the Copa del Rey final, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen again set to start in goal. The likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will all be eager to help Barcelona end the season in style before they join their respective national teams in preparations for the 2015 Copa America finals.
Juventus had odds stacked firmly against them even before Giorgio Chiellini’s injury, and given that the Bianconeri will be severely weakened at the back, I have no choice but to back Barcelona to win in ninety minutes. Their amazing attacking potential is likely to prove too much for the Bianconeri, even we are unlikely to see a big win.
Verdict: Away win Barcelona (2)
Best Odds: 5/8
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