UEFA.com reporter Andrew Haslam looks at where the UEFA Champions League final was won and lost, as FC Barcelona held off Juventus to claim a fourth title in ten years.
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Lionel Messi and Neymar both scored ten goals in the UEFA Champions League this season – the first time in the competition's history two players from the same side have reached double figures. The pair finished as joint top scorers with Cristiano Ronaldo, the fifth time Messi has won the prize although the first time he has shared it.
Together with seven-goal Luis Suárez, whose most crucial strike came in the 68th minute in Berlin, the 'MSN' strike force contributed 27 of Barça's 31 efforts in the competition this season (87%). More tellingly, the trio managed six attempts on target in Berlin – as many as the entire Juventus team – and had a further eight efforts on goal between them; that total of 14 again matched Juve's total shots.
Building from the back
The pattern was set early on, with both Marc-André ter Stegen and Gianluigi Buffon invariably opting to roll goal kicks short to their centre-backs, who had dropped wide, rather than play it long downfield. Such an approach carries a high degree of risk, of course; from one such set piece early on, Javier Mascherano's loose clearance was cut out by Arturo Vidal, who instigated a move that ended with Carlos Tévez firing over – yet such was Barça's confidence that Ter Stegen promptly played the ball straight back to Mascherano from the resulting goal kick.
Indeed, in the main it was Juventus who looked the more uncertain when they had the ball in defence, Suárez spearheading Barça's relentless pressing game as the Italian champions got little respite against their Spanish counterparts.
Juve's Andrea Barzagli might have completed all 31 of the passes he attempted, with Stephan Lichtsteiner next highest overall on 23 passes completed from 24 (96%) – including the one that led to Carlos Tévez's shot and Álvaro Morata's equaliser – but the defensive pair were the only Juve players with a pass completion rate above 88%. By contrast, only four of Barcelona's ten outfield players managed below 90%.
Sergio Busquets led the way on 95%, with centre-backs Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano on 92% and full-backs Jordi Alba and Daniel Alves, plus Andrés Iniesta, managing 91%. In total, Barcelona completed 495 of 558 attempted passes (89%); Juve attempted 337 passes and were successful with 281 of those (83%).
Daniel Alves was only denied a goal of his own by a superlative stop from Gianluigi Buffon, but perhaps even more important was his partnership with Messi. The right-back played 23 passes to the Argentinian and received 12 in return, making them the most prolific partnership in the final.
No other players came close to that total of 35, with Alba and Iniesta linking up on 28 occasions. Alves proved a potent outlet for Barcelona down the right throughout, collecting 73 passes in total; Messi was next in the ranking with 69. In contrast Andrea Pirlo was the fulcrum of the Juve team, collecting 38 passes – yet that was fewer than six of his opponents.
The Xavi factor
He might have started on the bench, and made just two starts in this season's UEFA Champions League, yet there is little doubt that the prospect of helping Xavi Hernández mark his record-breaking 151st, and final, appearance in the competition with a fourth winner's medal was a powerful motivation for Barcelona.
Pivotal in the 2009 and 2011 triumphs, the midfielder was an unused substitute in the 2006 final yet there was little danger of him suffering the same fate here. Sure enough, he was introduced with 12 minutes remaining, replacing Iniesta. "I tried to convey enthusiasm and strength to him," said Iniesta, who passed on the captain's armband to his replacement. "There was very little time left and he was fundamental in conveying tranquillity to the team." As he has been for 17 years.
Rakitić making midfield role his own
The search for Xavi's replacement may already have concluded, however, with Ivan Rakitić showing his increasing influence. In his first season at Barcelona, the Croatian has continued the impressive form he showed in helping Sevilla FC to UEFA Europa League glory in 2013/14, playing all but one of his new club's games.
Furthermore, Rakitić contributed two goals, both in the knockout stages – against Manchester City FC in the round of 16, and Juventus tonight, as well as an assist. That also came at a crucial juncture, in the semi-final against FC Bayern München. Xavi set up goals in the 2009 and 2011 finals and Rakitić might well have the same happy knack of making the difference when it matters most.