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Saturday, 6 June 2015

Champions League Final 2015- Juventus v Barcelona (June 6th 2015)

Champions League Final
Juventus v Barcelona
Olympiastadion, Berlin
Saturday 6th June 2015

The recovery of Juventus from the dark days of Serie B can be completed on Saturday as they take on Barcelona in the Champions League Final. They have already proven themselves back in Italy where they have won Serie A yet again, but finishing up the season with the treble and finally being on top of the European perch for the first time since 1996 would be beautiful for Juventus thirty years after the tragedy in Heysel.

After finishing 2nd in a Group containing Atletico Madrid, Juventus were the favourites in ties against Borussia Dortmund and Monaco, but not many would have predicted them knocking out Real Madrid in the Champions League Semi Final. It would have seemed even less likely after Juventus travelled to the Spanish capital having secured a 2-1 home win with that away goal expected to be critical, but now they have to prove themselves all over again against the best Spanish football can offer.

Juventus have won 9 in a row in all competitions since their surprising 2-1 defeat at local rivals Torino and they have completed the Serie A and Coppa Italia double in that time. Performances haven't been the best in recent weeks as the concentration and focus has shifted towards the Champions League Final and that has shown with 4 draws in their last 6 games heading into Berlin.

If you go back to the start of January and Barcelona were just coming off a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad, this side would not have been the favourites to win any of the three competitions they were still playing in. However Luis Enrique has recovered from that low point of his managerial first season at the Nou Camp and has got Barcelona playing the best football in Europe as they look to complete the treble and emulate Pep Guardiola's sides of recent years.

The goals have been flowing and Barcelona have shown how strong they are in the Champions League for much of the season. After finishing above Paris Saint-Germain in the Group Stage, Barcelona have beaten Manchester City and PSG in the next two Rounds of the competition before facing Guardiola and Bayern Munich. Even their former manager couldn't slow them down as Barcelona thumped Bayern Munich at home before allowing the Germans to win the Second Leg after a couple of away goals virtually assured Barcelona's place in Berlin.

The Catalan giants have lost just 1 of their last 22 games in all competitions and completed the domestic double last weekend with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey Final. Barcelona have won 10 of their last 12 games in all competitions and are strong favourites to win in Berlin.

This has the look of a fascinating European Cup Final between two big European names and Berlin is the lucky venue to host Juventus and Barcelona as both look to complete a famous treble.

A lot will be made of Juventus' win over Real Madrid in the Champions League Semi Final, but the 10 time European Champions were not playing at the same level as this Barcelona team and it is a completely different test. For example, the Juventus defence will be faced by a front three that have all been in very strong form, unlike Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have the pace to really trouble a Juventus defence that did offer Real Madrid chances in the Second Leg if only Bale had better fortunes in front of goal that evening. Doing the same against this Barcelona team will be a big problem for Juventus as those front three are scoring plenty of goals and come in with some real confidence.

It will be down to Juventus to use their powerful midfield to try and constrict the space to feed the Barcelona front three, but even that might be more of an issue than previous years. While Barcelona have been known to build patiently through Andres Iniesta and Xavi in previous years, they are a much more direct team these days and can by-pass the Juventus strength to get at a defence that lacks speed.

On the other hand, I think the midfield led by Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio have the athleticism to push Juventus forward and attack the most vulnerable part of the Barcelona team which remains in their defensive areas. The set pieces are also key for this Juventus team which are 'bigger' than their opponents and that is where Barcelona are likely to be troubled the most.

However, I can't ignore the chances that Juventus gave Real Madrid in the Second Leg and this Barcelona team seem to be stronger going into the final game of the season. Juventus have had a great season, but they have shown some tiredness in their play and going against Barcelona can be physically wearing.

The first goal, as the cliche goes, is very important, but I think Barcelona will eventually prove too good as their front three continues to face up the Juventus defence. A late counter-attack may be required to finish the Italian Champions off, but I like Barcelona to win this one by a couple of goals and confirm they are the best Europe has to offer right now.

MY PICK: Barcelona - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)

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