Juventus vs Barcelona: Five key player battles to look out for in Uefa Champions League final
The stage was set, the stars had aligned and the world was ready to witness one of the biggest matches in football history - an 'El Clasico' Champions League Final.sports Updated: Jun 07, 2015 03:19 IST
The stage was set, the stars had aligned and the world was ready to witness one of the biggest matches in football history - an 'El Clasico' Champions League Final.
Real Madrid led against Juventus in the semifinal and the focus was quickly shifting to the mouthwatering Messi-Ronaldo battle in the final.
But Juventus equalised and then held on against one of the most prolific attacking line-ups in the world, proving once again that defence can indeed trump attack.
The Champions League final, to be held in Berlin on Saturday between Barcelona and Juventus, is set-up as a classic battle between defence and attack.
The outcome of the game will depend upon a number factors - skill, finesse, wit and physicality.
Here are five key battles to look out for in the final:
Juventus defence vs MSN attack
Barcelona's strike-force of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar (MSN) has already scored 120 goals between them this season. With Messi hitting top form, Suarez scoring at will and Neymar gelling seamlessly with the attacking duo, it seems an almost certainty that Barcelona will score in the final.
But Juventus' back-four proved that scoring past them is a formidable task, as they kept out Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in the semifinal.
Although, Giorgio Chiellini has been ruled out of the final, the battle between Barca's attack and Juve's defense is one to look out for.
Did you know?
-Juventus have not conceded a single goal in either the first or last fifteen minutes of any of the Champions League games they have played this season.
-Barcelona are the only team to have two players score nine or more goals in the same Champions League campaign, with Messi scoring 10 and Neymar with 9.
Buffon vs Stegen
Juventus have reached the Champions League final after a gap of 12 years. And the only thing common between the Juventus of old and the team now is Gianluigi Buffon.
The 37-year-old has proved time and again that he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and sent out a strong statement after an outstanding performance against Real Madrid in the semifinals.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start as the keeper of choice for Barcelona, despite using Claudio Bravo in La Liga this season. Stegen is 14 years younger than Buffon but makes up for what he lacks in terms of experience with quick reflexes and agility.
Did you know?
-Ter Stegen and Buffon have the best goalkeeping record in this competition with six clean sheets each.
-Xavi and Buffon are the only players that remain from when the sides met in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2002/03.
Tevez vs Mascherano
Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano will face-off against a friend-turned-rival as fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez will attempt to draw first blood against Barca.
31-year-old Tevez has scored 29 goals this season and could prove to be a handful for Mascherano and the rest of the Barca defence. Juve have often used the score and shut-out strategy and therefore it would be crucial for Barcelona to not concede first.
Did you know ?
-Carlos Tevez is the top-scorer for Juventus in the Champions league this season with 7 goals.
-Mascherano and Tevez moved to the Premier League together when they joined West Ham United from Corinthians in 2006.
Messi vs Evra
Juventus left-back Patrice Evra won't have a moment's rest in the final on Saturday and would have to bring his A-game, knowing all the while that even a milli-second's slip could prove costly. That is what playing against Messi can do to you.
The final might just be one of the biggest games of the Frenchman's career and with Messi peaking right before the final, he could prove to be too hot to handle.
But Evra did an exceptional job in the semifinal against Real Madrid and confidence will be running high after shutting out the likes of Bale and Ronaldo.
Did you know ?
-Patrice Evra is only the second player to appear in a Champions League final for three different teams. The only other player to do so was Clarence Seedorf.
-Messi is on top of both the goalscoring (10) and assists (5) rankings in this season's Champions League.
Ivan Rakitic vs Paul Pogba
Iniesta and Xavi are often known as the 'dream midfield duo'. The two complement each other so well that they can and have, on several occasions, outclassed the best of opposition midfields.
With Xavi set to leave Barcelona, anyone that can step into his shoes and not look out of place has to be special. Rakitic has proved to be that special player this season and his involvement will result in a key battle in Saturday's final.
Rakitic will face off against Paul Pogba, the French midfield powerhouse, who can out-muscle and dominate all midfield battles with his physical presence and skill.
This is the perfect stage for Pogba to elevate his game and attain a world-class status, provided he can keep a check on his ego. He has all the attributes to be a star in the final and it will be up to Rakitic to keep him in check.
Did you know ?
-Barca have completed the most passes in the tournament (7174) and also have the highest completion rate (88.3%) in this season. They have topped this category every year since 2007/08.
-Pogba has a pass success rate of 83% in the Champions League.