Juventus

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL PREVIEW: Juventus

APPEARING in their first Champions League final since a tepid penalty shootout loss to Serie A rivals AC Milan in 2003, the Old Lady  will need to be more entertaining to win this time around.

The perception is that the Italian champions will need to sit back to beat Barcelona, but the much talked about front three of Luis Suarez, Neymar and of course Lionel Messi need no second invitation to score, allowing them to attack could cost Juve dear.

While the likes of Gigi Buffon, Georgio Chiellini, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra provide a steel to the Juventus defense, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata will need license to roam as Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal pull the strings in midfield.

A central three of Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli keep it tight in the middle and allow wing-backs Lichtsteiner and Evra to bomb forward and support three of either Pirlo, Vidal, Pogba or Claudio Marchisio in midfield and create opportunities for Morata and 32 goal Tevez up front in what is one of the most balanced teams in Europe.

Chiellini, however, has been ruled out through injury.

Saturday’s final is the perfect opportunity for a final swansong for a large section of the Juventus squad. Buffon is now 37 and a stalwart of the side, and while he has won almost everything he has taken part in, the Champions League still eludes the goalkeeping legend.

Do it for Gigi: Buffon is desperate for Champions League success

Do it for Gigi: Buffon is desperate for Champions League success (Photo via GianluigiBuffon.it)

Evra is set to play in his fourth Champions League final after losing the 2004 showpiece 3-0 to Porto while at Monaco, and twice more in 2009 and 2011, (both to Barcelona), when at Manchester United with his solitary Champions League triumph coming in 2008 as United defeated fellow Premier League side Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.

Precision passer Pirlo may still play like he did when he was 25, but the reality now is that he is 36 and may never get the opportunity to add to his two Champions League titles. Victory on Saturday will be his first “Ol’ Big Ears” success with Juventus, as his 2003 and 2007 wins both came with AC Milan over his current club and Liverpool respectively.

On the other end of the age scale, Pogba could be saying ‘ta ta’ to Turin after the Berlin final with anyone who is anyone in Europe being linked to the flamboyant Frenchman this summer.

Chelsea and Manchester City both want to bring Pogba back to England, Paris Saint-Germain are trying to persuade the 22-year-old to return home to his native France, Bayern Munich are also keen, while even Manchester United, the club who gave up on the mercurial midfielder when he was 19, are trying to make amends for their earlier error in letting him go three years ago.

If Juventus are to win Europe’s top competition for the first time since 1997, they are going to need to tactically outclass Barca, knowing when to soak up the pressure and when to attack the Catalans. A blend of youth and experience may just be pivotal to working that out.

Juventus 3-2 Roma

Juventus battled to a dramatic 3-2 win over AS Roma in a match where two red cards were shown, three penalties were awarded, Roma dropped points for the first time this season while Juventus kept up their 100% record.

Six cards were shown in a bad tempered clash, three for each side as well as one red card each.

Leonardo Bonucci dramatically won the game for the holders four minutes before the end, volleying in the winner from the edge of the box.

Penalty number one was dispatched by Carlos Tevez just before the half hour mark after Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick struck the hand of Maicon.

Roma were awarded a spot kick of their own five minutes later when Francesco Totti was bundled to the floor by Stephan Lichtsteiner in an off the ball incident during a free-kick.

Totti dusted himself down and dispatched his penalty for 1-1.

Rudi Garcia’s side completed the turn around 12 minutes later thanks to Juan Iturbe’s clinical first time strike as a result of a clever Gervinho pass.

Juventus’ second penalty was awarded in controversial circumstances, Paul Pogba was fouled by Seydou Keita outside the box but referee Gianluca Rocchi adjudged that the foul took place inside the area and wrongly gave the penalty.

Spot on: Carlos Tevez celebrates his second scored penalty.

Spot on: Carlos Tevez celebrates his second scored penalty.

Tevez was left with the simple task of scoring his second from the spot in the game to bring the Old Lady back level in first half injury time.

Gervinho had a golden opportunity to extend Roma’s lead just before that penalty but he curled a shot high and wide of Juventus’ goal.

Miralem Pjanic had the chance of the second half but he failed to hit the target from a tight angle after some good work by Gervinho to keep the ball in play.

Substitute Alvaro Morata came closest for the hosts when his header hit the bar.

Late drama ensured in Turin as both Morata and Kostas Manolas were sent off. Morata for a feisty challenge and Manolas for his reaction to said challenge, pushing Morata in the chest which sparked a mass brawl towards the end shortly after Juventus’ third goal.

Juventus: Buffon, Caceres (Ogbonna ’45), Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo (Vidal ’79), Marchisio, Asamoah, Tevez, Llorente (Morata ’59)

Subs not used: Storari, Rubinho, Evra, Pepe, Padoin, Pereyra, Mattiello, Coman, Giovinco

Roma: Skorupski; Maicon, Manolas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Holebas; Pjanic, Keita, Nainggolan, Iturbe (Florenzi ’66) Totti (Destro ’75), Gervinho

Subs not used: Lobont, Cole, Ljajic, Paredes, Torosidis, Ucan, Somma, Emanuelson, Calabresi, Sanabria