European Football

Juve v Barca – now that is a real Eurovision spectacular

What you need to know about the UEFA Champions League final 2015

fc-juventus-logo-wallpaper-FC_Barcelona_(crest).svgNever mind the kitsch, camp and crap, the real Eurovision spectacular will be on June 6 when the champions of Italy and Spain meet in Berlin’s historic Olympic Stadium.

There was a certain degree of satisfaction that the UEFA Champions League final will be between a team from Italy and a team from Spain. For the past two years, it’s been same-country finals – 2013 Bayern v Dortmund, 2014 Real v Atletico. European finals should be cross-country affairs, not domestic scraps under a different label.

Italian football desperately needs the boost that Juve will give it by contesting a UCL final once more. But they will be up against a Barca team that is only just getting into its stride as a potent force once more.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the infamous Heysel Stadium disaster, in which 39 fans (mostly Juve) were killed. Approximately an hour before kick-off, a large group of Liverpool fans breached a fence separating them from a “neutral area” which contained mostly Juventus fans. The Juve fans ran back on the terraces and away from the threat into a concrete retaining wall. Fans already seated near the wall were crushed and subsequently, the wall collapsed. Many people climbed over to safety, but many others died or were badly injured. The involvement of Liverpool fans led to a five year ban on English teams in Europe. The incident is as painful to Juventus as Hillsborough is for Liverpool fans. A victory in Berlin would be a fitting way for Juventus to mark this black day in the history of both clubs.

But Barca will have a lot to say about that. Like Juve, they are on the brink of joining a handful of clubs who have completed the treble of domestic league and cup and European Cup. Barca’s 2009 team achieved that landmark. Before they travel to Germany, they have to play Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final to complete the second leg of the treble.

It will the seventh Italy v Spain final and the first since 2000. It’s currently 4-2 to Spain. Past finals between Italy and Spain include:

1957: Real Madrid 2 Fiorentina 0
Played in Madrid, late goals by Di Stefano and Gento win the day.

1958: Real Madrid 3 AC Milan 2
An extra time winner by Gento in the Heysel stadium.

1964: Inter Milan 3 Real Madrid 1
In the famous Prater Stadium in Vienna, Inter’s Mazzola scores twice to beat an ageing Real.

1992: Barcelona 1 Sampdoria 0
Ronald Koeman’s thunderbolt wins Cruyff’s Barca the club’s first title, at Wembley.

1994: AC Milan 4 Barcelona 0
A sparkling display by Milan in Athens.

1998: Real Madrid 1 Juventus 0
Mijatovic second half goal wins a dull game in Amsterdam

Here are the leading permutations:

7 – Italy v Spain (2-4)
6 – England v Germany (5-1)
5 – Italy v Netherlands (2-3)
4 – England v Spain (1-3)
4 – Germany v Spain (2-2)
3 – Italy v Portugal (3-0)
3 – Germany v Italy (2-1)
2 – France v Spain (0-2)
2 – Spain v Spain

It’s the first time the European Cup/Champions League final has been hosted in Berlin. The most popular cities have been:

7 – Wembley (old and new)
4 – Rome, Madrid, Munich (old and new), Vienna and Brussels

And what about the most popular score in the final of the Champions League era?

Five finals have ended 2-1 and 4 have finished 1-1. Only one has ended 0-0.

Juventus have won six European trophies:
2 European Cups – 1985 v Liverpool, 1996 v Ajax
1 Cup-Winners Cup – 1984
3 UEFA Cups – 1977, 1990, 1993

Barcelona have won 11:
4 European Cups – 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
4 Cup-Winners Cups -1979, 1982, 1989, 1997
3 Inter Cities Fairs Cups – 1958, 1960, 1966

The two clubs have featured in a total of 14 European Cup/Champions League finals, dating back to 1961 when Barca lost to Benfica.

Five year records for the finalists

  Juventus     Barcelona    
Serie A Coppa Italia Champions League La Liga Copa del Rey Champions League
2014-15 1st Winners Final June 6 1st Final May 30 Final June 6
2013-14 1st QF Group 2nd Finalists QF
2012-13 1st QF QF 1st SF SF
2011-12 1st Finalists N/A 2nd Winners SF
2010-11 7th QF N/A 1st Finalists Winners

 

Road to Berlin

Juventus   Barcelona
Malmo – h 2-0, a 2-0; Atletico Madrid – a 0-1, h 0-0; Olympiacos – h 3-2, a 0-1
Finished 2nd.
Group Stage APOEL – h 1-0, a 4-0; Paris St Germain – h 3-1, a 2-3; Ajax – h 3-1, a 2-0
Finished 1st.
Borussia Dortmund – h 2-1, a 3-0 Round of 16 Manchester City – a 2-1, h 1-0
Monaco – h 1-0, a 0-0 Quarter-Final Paris St. Germain   – a 3-1, h 2-0
Real Madrid – h 2-1, a 1-1 Semi-Final Bayern Munich – h 3-0, a 2-3
Tevez 7, Morata 4, Vidal 1, Llorente 1, Pirlo 1, Pogba 1, Own Goal 1. Total: 16 Scorers Messi 10, Neymar 9, Suarez 6, Pique 1, Sandro 1, Rakitic 1.
Total: 28

Best defence, best attack

Barcelona will start as favourites, but then so did Real Madrid in the semi-final with Juventus. Juve’s defence was magnificent against Ronaldo and co. and they have attained a reputation for being the best defence in Europe. In 37 Serie A games, Juventus shipped in just 22 goals. Last season it was only 23, and in 2012-13, 24. It’s been pretty much the same unit. Buffon and Chiellini, for example, have played alongside each other for around 10 years. They will need to be at their best, because in the Messi, Neymar and Suarez holy trinity, Barca have a frightening strike force. Let’s not forget, though, that Barca were not firing on all cylinders earlier in the season. It all started to click when Messi was switched wider on the right and Suarez was given the centre of the field. In the past, there were suggestions that players like Ibrahimovic never flourished at Barca because they were not given free rein down the middle because of Messi’s preference to dominate that area. Whatever Luis Enrique did, it worked, with the trio scoring 117 goals between them!

Forza Juve?

Buffon, Chiellini, Barzagli, Ogbonna, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner, Evra, Pogba, Marchisio, Padoin, Pirlo, Vidal, Pereyra, Morata, Tevez, Llorente.

The average age of the Juventus side that drew 1-1 at Real Madrid in the semi-final was almost 30. They have six players over 30 years of age: Buffon (37), Chiellini (30), Tevez (31), Pirlo (35), Lichtsteiner (31) and Evra (33). The regular line-up includes five Italians, two Frenchmen, one Spaniard, one Swiss, one Chilean and one Argentinian. Evra (Manchester United), Tevez (Manchester United) and Pirlo (AC Milan) have all won UEFA Champions League winners’ medals.

Blaugrana al vent?

ter Stegen, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Alves, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Xavi, Pedro, Mathieu, Rafinha, Bravo, Bartra, Adriano

Barca still have a number of players who appeared in their 2011 Champions League success: Pique, Mascherano, Alves, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Adriano and Xavi. Their regular line-up contains only three Spaniards, two Argentinians, three Brazilians, a Croatian, a German and a Uruguayan. The average age of the team that played in the semi-final was just over 27.

June 6 in Berlin promises to be engaging evening. It will be like old times. But don’t expect too many goals….

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