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With the UEFA Champions League Final between FC Barcelona and Juventus less than 72 hours away, we at fcbarcelona.com asked five Italian sports journalists about the big match, set for Saturday 6 June at 8.45pm CET in Berlin, Germany. Filippo Ricci, Marc Foron, Riccardo Trevisani, Francesco and Andrea Pauli Caremani answered five questions posed by us, shedding light on how the match is being seen in Italy.
1). Which of the two teams do you think has played better in the competition thus far and which one is in better form coming into the final?
2). What might the keys be as far as tactics are concerned?
3). How would you rate the season that Luis Enrique's Barça are having?
4). Choose one protagonist from each team in the final.
5). Make a prediction
Filippo Maria Ricci (La Gazzetta dello Sport)
1) They are very evenly matched. Barça are one of the favourites and have lived up to expectations. Juventus started with two defeats in three games but have grown since the group stage, they are more confident, as they showed against Dortmund and most of all against the defending champions Madrid. The two teams are physically and mentally strong going into the final. The fact they are both chasing trebles raises the level of this final.
2) The way the three in the Barça midfield help the strikers. Juventus have a strong and quality midfield in Pirlo, Marchisio, Pogba and Vidal. Hard work from Luis Suárez but also Messi and Neymar is essential for the bianconeri not to create superiorities and get the full backs playing and most of all the duo of Tévez and Morata.
3) Extraordinary. The manager has transformed the team on a physical level, which is so important for sustaining the high pressure that typifies the Barça game. He has improved set pieces both in attack and defence, and most of all has discovered the plan Bs that they have been missing since 2012, and which was so needed to get Barça back after teams got the hang of dealing with what Guardiola did to revolutionise the team. What we’re seeing is tiki-taka 2.0.
4) I’ll go with the Argentinian duo of Messi and Tévez. Leo has the chance to get his hands on his fifth Ballon d’Or and has been showing fierce determination since January, along with to his incredible quality. He’s become unstoppable. He’ll make his mark on this final. The Apache went five years and almost 2,000 days without scoring in the Champions League, from 7 April 2009 to 16 September 2014. Once he broke that negative streak, he scored seven goals in Europe this season, and has kept the team alive in difficult moments. His hunger is one of Juventus' best weapons.
5) 3-1 to Barça.
Marc Foroni (Mediaset Itàlia)
1) Barça have had a better competition until now. They were amazing against PSG and Bayern. They have been much more competitive all season, but Juventus are going to Berlin in form. They have improved since the group stage. Juve in the knockout stages have been a much more confident team and they have nothing to lose in the final.
2) The tactical key for Juve is stopping Messi, Neymar and Suarez and trying to bother Iniesta and Rakitic to stop them holding onto the possession. Barça will have to be very careful with set pieces and not giving space to Morata and Tévez. They’re a very dangerous partnership.
3) I love the job that Luis Enrique has done: he has convinced a superstar squad to change their methods after tiki taka and has also moved Messi’s position, which has made him better and also brought out the best in Suárez and Neymar. He has put up with huge pressure to do an excellent job. I’m happy for him. He deserved much more at Roma.
4) Messi and Tévez are the stars of their teams and can make the difference at any moment. But I’d pick Iniesta and Vidal. They are what balance Barça and Juve: if they play their best then their teams play their best. As for encouragement, the most important squad members are Piqué and Buffon.
5) This is an unpredictable final. Barça are the favourites but Juve have a chance. Buffon, Tévez and Pirlo have all the personality and experience that you need at this level.
Riccardo Trevisani (Sky Sport Itàlia)
1) I think Barcelona are stronger. They have the strongest attacking threesome in football history. Juventus have organisation, malice and the advantage of being the weaker side. But Barcelona are technically superior.
2) Juventus suffered a lot in Madrid after Ronaldo scored. Real Madrid could have scored in the next 15 minutes. Neymar and Suárez will have chances and it will be hard for Juve to survive. But if it’s a tight game, Barça might find themselves up against a wall.
3) I don’t think we understood Luis Enrique in Italy. He is a loyal man and a good manager. At the start of the season, maybe he wanted to make his mark on the team, but it has really blossomed thanks to the legendary attack.
4) Messi: always and forever, and Tévez because he took Juve to Berlin.
5) 2-1 to Barça.
Andrea de Pauli (Corriere Dello Sport)
1) Both teams have improved as the competition progressed although they both started in very different ways. Barça were practically obliged to get as far as the final and they did that, winning their group and beating strong opponents in City, PSG and Bayern. Juve were an outsider and gained in confidence after finishing second in their group behind Atlético Madrid. They clearly don’t have the same class of individuals but after knocking out Madrid they have shown that they are capable of anything. Both teams are in great form.
2) No doubt Barça will try to dominate from the start, playing their usual game. I imagine that Juve will be quite aggressive when they haven’t got the ball, but they won’t only focus on vertical football. Their midfield is a good mix of combination players and those that can get through on goal. As some of the defenders aren’t in perfect shape, I guess they’ll play with four at the back, with a rhombus in the middle and two strikers, but watch out for the surprises that Allegri might have up his sleeve. He loves inventing new things.
3) I can only tip my hat at what Barça have done under Luis Enrique. It is no coincidence that they’ve won the league and cup double and are into the Champions League Final. They have improved exponentially and have found the right balance, as you can see from the few goals they’ve conceded and the amazing number they have scored. They have made the most of the trident up front thanks to the way they are all so committed to the cause, and the midfielders have worked especially hard. And they should also be admired for having a full strength squad throughout this final stretch of the season.
4) It’s difficult to pick out a single person from so many champions. I’d like this to be a final where a substitute shines, I’m sorry, with the luxury of being able to watch Xavi and Pirlo, because of what they have imprinted on football history, but I think it will be difficult to prevent Messi from taking centre stage.
5) I’m dreaming of a tight game, but an early Barça goal could settle it early on. I’ll go for a 2-1 win to Barça, but I warn you that I’m a hopeless gambler.
Francesco Caremani (author of the book 'Heysel, la verità d'1 stregge Anunciatta')
1) They’ve both had fantastic seasons and nobody expected Juventus and Barcelona to be so strong and competitive. They’ve grown along the way, both in their leagues and in the Champions League, they both have high morale, but Juventus won the Scudetto earlier and over the last few weeks have been able to distribute their physical and nervous energy better.
2) Juventus will play with a four-man defence, I reckon, and I think Marchisio or Pereyra might mark Messi to try to stop him running quick through on goal. Barcelona will play as we all know, they’ll go out strong in search of an early goal and will try to direct the play the way they prefer.
3) I’ve followed Luis Enrique since he became a coach and I consider him to be one of the best prepared young coaches in Europe, and he’s shown that with such an incredible season with Barcelona. When he was at Roma you could already tell what a fine coach he is and that he was good enough to manage a great team like Barcelona.
4) Messi for Barcelona, Buffon for Juventus.
5) 2-1, but I’m not saying to who...
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