Juventus vs Barcelona: 2015 Champions League Final Preview

2015 UEFA Champions League Final - Credit: Loren Villalobos - Alsman (Flickr Creative Commons)
2015 UEFA Champions League Final - Credit: Loren Villalobos - Alsman (Flickr Creative Commons) /

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  • The defining story of 2014-15 European Club Football, is the rejuvenation of a Barcelona attack with the addition of center forward Luis Suarez.

    Together with Lionel Messi, the best player in world football, and Neymar, the best attacking player from Brazil, Barcelona have created an attacking triumvirate that prioritizes collective glory over individual success, and has become an unstoppable attacking force which has scored a combined 124 goals with 57 assists this season.

    The addition of Suarez in the center forward position, pushing Messi wide to a right wing position, has been the key to reigniting Barcelona’s attack.

    Suarez now plays as a “Wide 9,” selflessly ceding primary goal-scoring responsibilities to both wingers, and instead makes functional wide attacking runs which occupy opposition fullbacks, creating space for the central runs of Neymar and Messi. Messi is the primary beneficiary of these runs and aligns himself in a narrow position to maximize their effect.

    Juventus will be the final team given the opportunity to contain Barcelona’s attack. A performance which would be among the greatest in the history of Italian tactical football will be needed to complete this task. Their strategy will be built around the 4-3-1-2 formation that they will use to counter Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation.

    The 4-3-1-2 formation has become a relic of modern football. Adding a second forward and fourth central midfielder sacrifices an attacking wide player leaving opposition fullbacks free to attack and control matches down both flanks.

    However, against a Barcelona side doing the most damage centrally, the extra central midfielder will help clog Barcelona’s preferred attack route and the extra attacker will help Juventus counter attack into open spaces created by the Blaugrana attack.

    The extra central midfielder, forming a diamond formation, will allow Juventus to inhibit Barcelona’s attack by denying all of their central midfielders the required space to provide service to their attackers, while also keeping holding midfielder Andrea Pirlo free to provide defensive cover for his center-backs.

    Arturo Vidal could press Barcelona holding midfielder Sergio Busquets, and central midfielders Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio could press Ivan Rakitic and Andreas Iniesta, respectively.

    Their two forwards, Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata will press Barcelona’s center-backs, Pique and Javier Masherano, effectively eliminating all deep and central midfield play in Barcelona’s buildup.

    The obvious solution, is for Barcelona to play through their two attack minded fullbacks Jordi Alba and Dani Alves, who will both be free in space to attack and will most likely take on very aggressive positions. This will force Messi, Neymar, and Suarez into wider — theoretically less threatening — positions to find the space and time to receive and maintain possession of the ball.

    Also, with their fullbacks occupying advanced positions, Barcelona will open themselves up to Juventus’ most likely form of attack — counters through Tevez and Morata, who have professional experience playing as wingers and canboth drift wide into open areas.

    With Barcelona’s center-backs exposed, stretched wide andfocused on defending Juventus’ forwards, Vidal could become the most vital player in Juvetus’ counter attack.

    He is an extremely athletic, direct player who has the ability to quickly cover large amounts of the field, allowing him to make attacking runs in behind the languid Busquets to create a third scoring threat, as he is a very capable finisher.

    “Juventus will have limited opportunities to retain possession and would open themselves to an aggressive press from Barcelona which could lead to turnovers close to their own goal.”

    Juventus will have limited opportunities to retain possession and would open themselves to an aggressive press from Barcelona which could lead to turnovers close to their own goal.

    Thus, when Juventus do get the ball deep in their own half, expect them to play the ball directly to bypass this press and initiate attacks from advanced positions. The outlet for these direct passes will be Pogba, who has a three-inch height advantage over his opposite central midfielder Rakitic.

    Pogba also has the physicality to win and retain the possession of the ball in tight areas, and has the technical ability to create chances for himself or his advanced central teammates who can attack a Barcelona defense which has no defensive cover against Tevez, Morata, and Vidal.

    Juventus’ other form of attack will be from set pieces. Holding midfielder Andrea Pirlo is in the conversation as one of the best dead ball takers in the history of world football and he will use these skills to provide service for a Juventus side that starts four regulars over six feet tall (centerbacks Georgio Chellini and Leonardo Bonucci, central midfielder Paul Pogba, and forward Alvaro Morata).

    Barcelona only starts two regulars over six feet (centerback Pique and holding midfielder Sergio Busquets) and have historically struggled at defending set pieces, including their 3-2 Champions League semifinal second leg loss to Bayern Munich.

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    Also, Pirlo is a renowned direct set piece taker and with a shorter wall, his ability to score from set pieces could very well be a match decider and the perfect conclusion to his great career.

    With the form of Barcelona’s front three, they enter the 2015 Champions League Final as the favorites to complete European Treble.

    Juventus bring the physicality, athleticism, set piece ability and tactical plan to provide themselves the opportunity to leave Berlin with their first Champions League Trophy in twenty years. However the individual skill of Messi, or his attacking teammates can overcome the best laid plans.