Five key questions in the Champions League final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday between Juventus and Barcelona:
Can the Juventus defence contain Barcelona’s MSN strike-force?
Barcelona’s South American strike-force of Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez have scored 120 goals between them already this season as Suarez has slotted seamlessly into Barca’s attack and Messi has been in the form of his career.
But the Juventus back four managed to subdue Real Madrid’s star-studded attack and soaked up all that Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema threw at them in the second leg of their semi-final tie. Now, without the injured Giorgio Chiellini, they must repeat that performance.
Can Juventus get a grip on Barcelona in midfield?
Led by the class of veteran Andrea Pirlo, and with Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba in there too, there is enough quality in the Juventus midfield for them to take on the Barcelona trio of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta.
Barcelona can also call on the veteran Xavi Hernandez, who will at some point during the game make his final appearance for the Catalans before joining Qatari side Al Sadd next season.
Can the old master Gianluigi Buffon outshine Barcelona ‘keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen?
As the only survivor from Juventus’ last Champions League final appearance in 2003, the 37-year-old Buffon is showing no signs of ageing and is determined to win his first European Cup.
Buffon, who was outstanding in Juve’s 3-2 semi-final win on aggregate over Real Madrid, is relishing a return to the Olympic Stadium where he won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
In the opposite goal, Ter Stegen, who is 14 years Buffon’s junior, has got the nod in Europe this season despite coach Luis Enrique selecting the Chilean Claudio Bravo in La Liga.
Now, in his first season playing in Europe’s elite club competition, he is looking forward to facing one of his childhood heroes.
“Buffon is a legend. He really has played a remarkable season. It was great to see him perform the way he did against Real Madrid,” said Ter Stegen. “It’s a good opportunity for him, but I hope I can win the final, not him.”
Can Morata and Tevez break their Barcelona duck?
With 14 and 29 goals respectively, Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez have forged an impressive partnership up front for Juventus, but both have an extra point to prove against Barcelona.
Morata never scored against Barca when he was on the books at Real Madrid, while Tevez was on the losing side for Manchester United against Barcelona in his last Champions League final appearance.
Having lifted the trophy with United in Moscow in May 2008 by beating Chelsea on penalties in the final, Tevez played the second half of the 2009 final in Rome when Messi orchestrated Barca’s 2-0 victory.
While Messi threatens to again steal the limelight in Berlin, Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano warns their Argentinian compatriot Tevez is just as deadly in front of goal.
“He is one of the best players I have ever shared a pitch with and he has an incredible winning mentality,” said Mascherano.
“He is a player that likes to play these type of games and clearly is one of the most important players in the Juventus team.”
Can Juventus break Barcelona’s resolve at set-pieces?
Only once this season has Barcelona’s defence been breached from a set-piece, when Bayern Munich defender Medhi Benatia headed past Ter Stegen from a corner early in the Champions League semi-final second leg.
But with their height and strength, Juventus will test the Catalans’ defence in the air from dead-ball situations.
Morata’s crucial equaliser following a Pirlo free-kick in the semi-final second leg against Madrid ultimately booked Juve’s ticket to Berlin. Barcelona’s centre-backs Mascherano and Gerard Pique will therefore need to be at the top of their game in the final, especially whenever Pirlo gets the chance to send in a free-kick.
– Agence France-Presse