Juventus v Barcelona final: reporters' view

Juventus and FC Barcelona reporters Paolo Menicucci and Graham Hunter run the rule over the finalists, assessing just where the Berlin showdown will be won and lost.

Gianluigi Buffon celebrates Juventus making the final
Gianluigi Buffon celebrates Juventus making the final ©AFP/Getty Images

Key moment
Paolo Menicucci: Juventus took a 2-1 lead to Germany for the round of 16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund, but they were without the injured Andrea Pirlo and then lost Paul Pogba inside the first half-hour at the BVB Stadion Dortmund. From that position, a 3-0 win was remarkable. "We have realised that we have great strength, technically and physically," Massimiliano Allegri said after the game. "We have left an exclamation mark in Europe."

Graham Hunter: Either when Luis Enrique and Lionel Messi agreed that Luis Suárez should permanently move to central striking position or Neymar's goal to make it 3-0 against FC Bayern München at the Camp Nou in the semi-final first leg. Subsequent events proved that a three-goal cushion was essential to escape from Munich with a place in the final secured.

Key player
Paolo Menicucci: Carlos Tévez has been a real string-puller this season with his goals and relentless hard-working approach, but another South American could be Allegri's ace in the hole in Berlin. Arturo Vidal rushed his recovery from a knee injury in order to play the FIFA World Cup with Chile last summer, and struggled with fitness for a great part of the season.

Arturo Vidal is back to his best after a testing season
Arturo Vidal is back to his best after a testing season©AFP/Getty Images

However the midfield warrior seems to have finally found his mojo. "Vidal is no longer running behind opponents, he is finally running at them," a confident Allegri said. He scored 15 and 18 goals respectively in all competitions over the previous two campaigns, compared to only eight this term: does he have one in the bag for the most important game?

Graham Hunter: Messi is leagues ahead in this category. Inspired from start to finish in the UEFA Champions League, his display against Manchester City FC in the round of 16 second leg was truly memorable, while his pair of goals in the first leg against Bayern will not be forgotten by anybody who saw them.

Form
Paolo Menicucci: Considering how they performed in the away leg of their semi-final with Real Madrid CF – improving in the second half despite the oppressive heat in the Spanish capital – and in the recent Coppa Italia final against SS Lazio, when they won 2-1 in extra time, Juve are certainly close to peak physical form. "You cannot be at 100% after a long season," Allegri said. "But we will be as close as possible to that in Berlin." With the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia already in the bag, Juve earned a fortnight to focus on Berlin.

Graham Hunter: Stunning. Since the first week of January they have recorded 30 wins, two draws, two defeats, with 104 goals scored and 23 conceded.

Big-game experience
Paolo Menicucci: Juve may have reached the UEFA Champions League final for the first time since 2003 and some of their players have never appeared in a match of such magnitude, but Allegri can also count on veterans who know a thing or two about big games.

Three of them (Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Andrea Pirlo) even know what it takes to lift a trophy in Berlin having won the 2006 World Cup with Italy at Berlin's Olympiastadion. Meanwhile Patrice Evra will play his fifth UEFA Champions League final. His half-time speech against Madrid completely changed the Bianconeri approach in the second half, according to several of his team-mates.

Graham Hunter: Insuperable. Not only have the majority of these players won a couple of UEFA Champions League finals, they've racked up World Cup finals, UEFA European Championship wins plus a flood of domestic trophies. Nerves won't be a problem.

Why they'll win
Paolo Menicucci: Defence, set pieces. Whether Allegri will opt for a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-1-2 formation, I don't expect Barcelona to find the same space they had against Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern in the previous rounds. Juve midfielders, however, will always have be ready to help, especially when Messi drops deep to receive the ball. Meanwhile set pieces could be Juve's main attacking weapon: Pirlo's educated feet and a strong physical presence in the box could create Barcelona a few problems.

Graham Hunter: In 2006 Messi told me (after admitting his fury at not being picked for the Paris final) "God willing I'll be back and I'll win this trophy many more times". A hunger he's never lost. He's the heat in their flame.

Barcelona's attacking trio have been in potent form
Barcelona's attacking trio have been in potent form©AFP/Getty Images

Why they won't win
Paolo Menicucci: Regardless how well you defend, players like Neymar, Luis Suárez and Messi – not to mention Andrés Iniesta – can always punish you. Against Madrid, Juventus proved to have enough character to react after going behind, but everything would become much trickier should Barcelona take the lead. That would force the Bianconeri to leave more spaces for Luis Enrique's lethal attack.

Graham Hunter: Having spoken to Luis Enrique and numerous players about Juventus, what stands out is that they see the Italian champions as possessing a hard-nosed winning mentality which stems, partly, from repeatedly racking up Scudetti in the last four years and from signing a mix of players with talent, power and hunger. The Bianconeri unite some qualities that Barcelona face rarely.

Strengths
Paolo Menicucci: There was around a 7.5km difference in distance covered by Juventus compared to Real Madrid in the away leg of the semi-final. Nothing new, however, as Juve have six players in the top ten when it comes to distance covered in the competition. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Giorgio Chiellini and VIdal are the leading three; Neymar is Barcelona's highest in 13th. Expect the same spirit – with 11 players always ready to make an extra run when needed – in the final.

Graham Hunter: The media call Barcelona's front three 'The Trident'. The other players regularly describe Messi, Suárez and Neymar as 'monsters'. There's a reason for that. In the UEFA Champions League alone the three have scored 25 of the team's 28 goals and given eight assists in nine games together. Monstrous.

Great Juventus goals
Great Juventus goals

Weaknesses
Paolo Menicucci: Juve have scored only 16 goals in Europe compared to Barcelona's 28 this season. Messi and Neymar together have scored more than Juve's entire squad. However with the in-form Álvaro Morata and Tévez often dropping between the lines and midfielders who can attack spaces like Vidal, Pogba and Claudio Marchisio, Juve still have different options to hurt the Barcelona defence.

Graham Hunter: They haven't been massively overexposed, only in Paris and Munich, but while the training-ground set play strategy work conducted by Luis Enrique's assistant, Juan Carlos Unzué, has been tremendously successful Barcelona are still vulnerable to losing headers in their own box from set plays for the simple reason that they continue to put a premium on ability over height and power.

Predicted lineup
Juventus: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Vidal; Tévez, Morata.

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba: Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta: Messi, Suárez, Neymar.

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