Barcelona versus Juventus. The Spanish versus the Italians. Free flowing beautiful play versus [outdated stereotype about Italian calcio]. This is shaping up to be one of the biggest soccer/football/futbol matches of all time when considering the talented, legendary players involved. Both teams are going for the treble, having won the league and cup double in their respective countries.
The clubs last played in the 2003 Champions League quarter finals, with Juventus winning 3-2 on aggregate. This season, Barcelona reached the final by knocking off Bayern Munich, while Juventus took down Real Madrid.
Juventus was very lucky to escape from their group, finishing one point ahead of Olympiacos. Barcelona stormed through their group, losing only to Paris Saint-Germain in September.
The match will be a battle between attacking prowess and composed, veteran defending. Barcelona, managed by Luis Enrique, are led by the prolific forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar. Juventus, under manager Massimiliano Allegri, hope that a squad boasting Gianluigi Buffon, Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, Alvaro Morata, Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente, Andrea Pirlo, and Arturo Vidal can keep pace.
Phil McNulty of the BBC warns not to overlook Juventus' offense:
Juventus do indeed have a stubborn backline, with the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichtsteiner operating effectively in front of experienced goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and behind playmaker supreme Andrea Pirlo. But this overlooks the ability Massimiliano Allegri's side have going forward.
Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal are two of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe, former Manchester-based striker Carlos Tevez is one goal shy of 30 for the season and Barcelona will be aware of the threat posed by his likely partner, former Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata. It is plenty to justify Buffon's assertion that his side are not heading to Berlin to "be the victims" and back up defender Leonardo Bonucci's claim that the game "can't just be summed up by saying it's a strong Barcelona attack against the Juventus defence".
Iniesta injured his calf during the Copa del Rey final, but appears to be ready to go. Juventus will be missing starting center back Giorgio Chiellini with a calf strain. Andrea Barzagli, also dealing with injury issues, will start in his place. This appears to be the last match in Europe for legendary playmakers Xavi Hernandez and Pirlo, who are moving to Qatar and most likely New York City FC respectively.
I predict a 4-1 win for Barcelona.
Cuneyt Cakir - Turkey
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Alba, Mascherano, Pique, Alves, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Neymar, Suarez, Messi
Juventus: Buffon, Evra, Barzagli, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner, Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio, Vidal, Morata, Tevez