By Antony Jordan
Juventus make their first appearance in a Champions League Final since 2003 and have not tasted victory in the competition for almost 20 years, but can they upset the odds and defeat the Lionel Messi led Catalan team? The European football season concludes this Saturday evening as the Olympiastadion in Berlin hosts the 2015 Champions League Final where Italians and Spaniards Juventus and Barcelona will clash for the right to call themselves the best side in Europe. Spain has been the more prolific at lifting the title in recent years with four of the last nine victories coming from teams in La Primera Liga, with Barcelona winning three of those competitions, while Italy has claimed just half that amount of titles during this timeframe.
All odds provided are done so by online sportsbook Betfair.com and their 2015 Champions League Final match odds are as follows.
Juventus to win – 6.50
Draw – 4.20
Barcelona to win – 1.60
In goals its men versus boys as Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon has, if you can think of it, done it. He has lifted the World Cup – which he did on the soil that this Champions League Final is being played upon – and is only missing out on the Champions League title to complete his set of trophies. He played when they were beaten on penalties in 2003 by AC Milan and while Messi, Neymar and Suarez will be more difficult to keep out if anyone can do it, it will be Buffon. His opposite number is 23 year old German wonderkid Marc-André ter Stegen who has played all 12 of Barcelona’s games in this competition so far. He has a fine record of just eight goals conceded, but its still the Italian who leads the way for goalkeepers.
The defensive area of the pitch is a much more closely run thing as Lichtsteiner, Evra, Bonucci and Chiellini match up evenly with Dani Alves, Pique, Jordi Alba and Javier Mascherano. The goals against columns for both teams are also matches too with the Italians slightly ahead having picked the ball from their own net seven times which is one fewer than the Spaniards. On their day both teams are capable of blocking everything that is thrown at them and we’re marking this defensive battle down as a draw.
Barcelona play with three in the middle of the park and this season have been utilising Sergio Busquets with club and country legend Andreas Iniesta and Croatian youngster Ivan Rakitic with Xavi coming from the bench. It is an impressive selection of players in creative positions, even if Iniesta and Xavi are past their best now, but with Juventus playing an extra man in the central positions and their midfield containing one of the most sublime midfielders in world football in Andrea Pirlo plus two of the most sought after players in youngster Paul Pogba and Chilean Arturo Vidal along with Claudio Marchisio we feel that the centre of the park is another Juventus area. That is not to see that Barcelona’s creative trio will not see plenty of the ball and create many chances.
Despite Juventus leading 2.5 – 0.5 at this stage of the team areas the decisive area is the front line and with Barcelona having one of, if not, the most feared three pronged attack in world football with Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi – who have scored 25 goals in total in the Champions League this season – they certainly take this vital area. This front three is certainly capable of turning any match and Messi is at the top of his game as his first goal in the Copa del Rey Final against Bilbao last weekend showed he is capable of conjuring greatness from nothing. Still with Juventus having seven goal Carlos Tevez and former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, who sunk his old team to book this final berth for Juventus, leading their line there is plenty of chance of goals from the Italians too. You have to make Barcelona the leaders in this area of the park though.
Both sides have done as much as could be is possible domestically with Juventus winning the Serie A title by 17 points from Lazio, who they also defeated in the final of the Coppa Italia for the domestic double, while Barcelona edged Real Madrid by two points for the La Primera Liga title before sealing the Spanish double with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao last weekend. Both sides will be desperate to complete the treble this season and after their performances against two just as strong sides in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the semi finals of this tournament pre-kick it would be unfair to pick either side as the losing team. Juventus bring the better unbeaten record into this match with nine games unbeaten while Barcelona defeated Atlético Madrid and drew with Deportivo La Coruna to seal the Spanish league title as well as beating Bilbao after losing the second leg of their tie with Bayern Munich. Will this form see the Italians the more confident side?
The last time these sides met was the last time that Juventus made the final of the Champions League in 2003 as both legs finished 1-1 with Barcelona needing to dig deep on both occasions to level the legs to force extra time at the Camp Nou at the Quarter Final stage. It was, however, the Italians who had the last laugh as they took the lead six minutes from the end of extra time to secure passage to the final four stage. Can they do so again on the biggest stage against a side that has played in, and won, three Champions League Finals since then?
Champions League Predictions:
With the Spaniards having far more experience of this biggest game in club football than their Italian opposition for this weekend’s game coupled with the best player in the world in their squad (sorry CR7 fans!) we can see why Betfair make Barcelona the odds on favourites for the title. However, if Juventus can hold their own against Real Madrid over two legs then they too are something special and will believe that they can end their 19 year wait for European glory.
We feel that the omens are there for the Italians and with Barcelona not beating an Italian side in the final since a 1-0 extra time win over Sampdoria in 1992 this could be a night to remember for the side from Turin. With Juventus win the match in 90 minutes or force extra time available at odds of 2.30 in the Betfair Sportsbook we feel that there is value to be had on the Serie A champions, while we see both of these sides having to score to be in with a chance of lifting the trophy so we’re also backing both Juventus and Barcelona to score at odds of 1.95 at Betfair too.