Why Juventus Will Win The Champions League


One great angle ahead of the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus on June 6th is the way both teams have rebounded from adversity.

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For Barcelona that tough spell was not too long, nor was it too difficult. But in watching Lionel Messi, their superhuman performer, dip in performance as a result of injury, their team as a whole suffered.

Combining that with the ageing core of their squad and their two-season transfer embargo for the way they approached the signing of certain players, times were as tough as they’d be in quite some time at the Catalan club.

Though they stumbled collectively, the additions of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic helped turn their fortunes around. So much so, that they have also wrapped up another league title, and have a Copa Del Rey final to contend for as well.

Certainly their woes were short lived. As a team they have peaked at just the right time, and their front three of Neymar, Messi and Suarez rivals any in world football. Why then, do Juventus have any hope of beating them for Europe’s top footballing prize?

Before looking at the finer details though, let us remember, this is Juventus — The Old Lady, the former standard bearer of Italian football, a country famous for it’s tactical way of approaching both sides of the game. The same Juventus that was always a European powerhouse, but was then smeared as a result of the Italian football scandal of 2006 and banished to Serie B.

Jul 31, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo (21) battles against Everton forward Kevin Mirallas (11) during the second half at AT&T Park. Everton defeated Juventus 6-5 on penalty kicks after tying 1-1 in regulation. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Like a phoenix, they rose from the ashes however, winning promotion straight back to Serie A in 2007. Though they were seen as the bad guys when it had been discovered that they were involved in match fixing prior to their enforced relegation.

The fact some star players didn’t abandon ship and helped them back to the top flight gave them a certain charm. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, iconic striker Alessandro Del Piero and the dynamic Pavel Nedved all stuck around to help the team in it’s darkest hour.

From that promotion, they slowly rebuilt themselves, with Buffon being a constant in the team the entire time. Their first season back in the big time, they finished third, and it appeared they’d return to former glories sooner rather than later.

From there they cooled somewhat, and it wasn’t until they moved into their own Juventus Stadium in 2011, that the turning point came. From then on they owned their own stadium, unlike most teams in Italy, and so kept all gate receipts from fans attending games.

The stadium was smaller than their previous home, the iconic Stadio Delle Alpi, but it was theirs outright. In 2012 the team regained control of the league by going a season unbeaten and winning the league — which brings us to this moment, 2015, with a fourth consecutive Scudetto wrapped up and the big one in Europe still to play for. Like Barcelona, they too are going for a treble, an Coppa Italia final with Lazio is also on the agenda.

Their comeback story was already great, the stuff of movie scripts. Their last decade has had it all, disaster, despair, loyalty and finally a return to the summit.

Capping it off with a Champions League win would surely rank right up there with the biggest turnarounds in a club’s fortune of all time. Remember, while some players stayed to fight with The Old Lady, others world class talents like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fabio Cannavaro fled at the first opportunity.

But how can they actually beat a Barcelona team that has spent the last 10 years, not clawing it’s way back from the brink of death like Juventus, but conquering all before it with a style of play that had pushed many to claim them the best side of all time? How can they hope to beat a team with such talent, such complete belief in their decades-old system of winning? You need only to look at the semi-final for some clues.

In that two-legged masterclass of a victory over Spanish giants Real Madrid, we saw all of the great and the good this Juventus team possess. The second leg in particular, told us much. Battered in the first half of that game in the Bernabeu, they actually went into the break losing 1-0 on the night, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.

The second half however, saw the team play with such counter attacking verve in the home of the then European champions, that it rattled the Spanish outfit. Juventus has talent and skill pulsating through it’s team, but it’s the hard working underbelly that has propelled them to the final of Europe’s elite club competition. In Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, Juventus boast two of the top fifteen midfielders in world football.

The things they can do with the ball always amaze, especially the lanky Pogba. But it is their hard working attitude without the ball that goes unnoticed — one of their greatest traits. Like many South American players, such as fellow Chilean Alexis Sanchez or Arsenal, Vidal zips around the pitch.

He’s tireless, hardworking, a unique sort of engine room player. Pogba on the other hand, he’s Patrick Vieira but with the feet of David Silva. It was his header that allowed Alvaro Morata — a product of Real Madrid himself – to snatch what proved to be the pivotal goal in that game.

With those two in midfield, anything is possible. They are the solid foundation on which greatness can flow from. Morata himself has a keen eye for goal. In Carlos Tevez however, the Italians have a striker with the same ethos as his midfield teammates.

He works hard, going way back to his days plying his trade for a West Ham side he never should have lined out for. This is the pattern that is emerging here, that of a hard working side who do not rest on the laurels of their considerable talent alone.

All of this, and we haven’t even spoken about the transcending figure of Andrea Pirlo. At 35 years of age, this may be his last season in the iconic black and white of Juventus. But let us not forget, he too has his own personal revenge mission he first needs to complete.

Cast aside by AC Milan in 2011, he has won the league title every year since with his new employers. Winning the Champions League would be complete validation that he didn’t hang around at the top level of this game for too long. His passing ability is still amongst the best.

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We could go on and name every player and their importance to this team, certainly the hard nosed Giorgio Chiellini deserves more than just a mention for all that he does defensively. The same is also true of Buffon and the consistently impressive Stephan Lichtsteiner, perhaps one of the most underrated players in the game today. These guys are no mere footnotes, nor do they deserve to be treated as such. They are key cogs, all of them, in what they will hope is another famous night in Europe.

So while Juventus have the personnel, the perfected style of Italian play and the belief that they can win the Champions League, they also have the history.

This would be a fitting end to the story, to this one particularly, an eventful chapter in the club’s illustrious existence. Sport is at it’s best when it is as unpredictable as this year’s European finale will be. But with everything seemingly about to come full circle for Juventus, was it ever really in doubt at all?

Next: Chelsea: A Season To Remember!