Today is the day. Barcelona are ahead of a historical opportunity to complete a record second treble, a feat that no other club has ever achieved in the history of European football. A potential win against Juventus at the Olympiastadion in Berlin would instantly elevate the current generation of players to legendary status and their devoted worldwide fanbase into an uncontrollable state of euphoria.
Key players such Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez have played a decisive role in bringing three of the last nine Champions League trophies back to the Camp Nou museum. The three La Masia graduates have grown in importance enormously over the years, making the transition from promising youngsters behind Ronaldinho and Deco’s shadow back in 2006 to becoming inspirational leaders themselves in the European Cup victories in 2009, 2011 and, hopefully, also in 2015.
The core of the current generation of players have developed under the leadership of prestigious tacticians such as Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova and, currently, Luis Enrique in the last decade. Although it would be unreasonable to question their undeniable influence, the feeling is that ambitious players of such extraordinary skill and mental strength would have been successful under any methodical manager who could keep them motivated enough to continue winning.
If Barcelona have been the most dominant club in world football in recent years, it is certainly thanks to the inspired group of gifted players who are prepared to sacrifice their own brilliance to achieve glory as a collective. The contagious enthusiasm of Dani Alves, privileged mastermind of Javier Mascherano or the commanding Gerard Pique have been, and continue to be, vital for the Blaugranas’ success.
And then there is Messi, of course.
The Argentinean wizard has reached a level that other professionals can only dream of, to the point that all eyes will undoubtedly be focused on him rom the moment the ball starts rolling in Berlin. Sure, world-class attacking teammates Luis Suarez and Neymar are expected to contribute but, judging by their performances together this season, it may very well take a spark of Messi magic to unbalance the game -- whether he will do so by scoring the goal himself or providing others does not really matter, to be honest.
The proficient No.10 has been instrumental all year, even surpassing the insane standards he managed to set in previous seasons. Although his individual stats are not at an all-time high from an individual point of view, his 56 goals and 27 assists in 55 appearances paint a picture of a much more rounded, generous, selfless Messi who is far less focused on chasing records and prioritises his team’s interests instead.
Undoubtedly, Barcelona are clear favourites for the Champions League final but the difficulties that Juventus will pose should not be underestimated. While the Culer fanbase have every right to feel euphoric after conquering the Liga and Copa double, it would be unreasonable for the players to think their superiority will be imposed without the required level of sacrifice. Plus, the fact that Juventus have also enjoyed similar success domestically indicated how costly feeling over-confident at this point would be.
If the Italian champions have reached yet another European final, it has been thanks to a conscious effort to build a robust defensive system that could survive the threat of major striking forces from other major rivals at continental level. Unconvinced? Look no further than Real Madrid, whose players will be watching the final on TV while enjoying their luxurious holidays all over the planet.
Juventus insiders report that Massimiliano Allegri has spent countless hours analysing ways to impede Barca’s MSN trident from connecting in their usual manner. Despite the absence of experience centre-back Giorgio Chiellini, breaking through the Bianconeri’s back-line will not be as easy as the majority of Blaugrana supporters are incautiously predicting.
Barcelona will only beat Juventus in the final if they remain true to themselves, chasing victory from the initial whistle. The exciting, direct, unpredictable style of football developed under Luis Enrique’s leadership has taken them tantalisingly close to making history, so applying their proven game plan is the only way forward.
Although the Italian champions will do everything within their power to slow attacking transitions down, it will be up to the Blaugranas to dictate the pace of the game and create chances to tip the balance in their favour. The effectiveness of Messi, Neymar and Suarez in front of goal will be put to the test once again -- and, with stakes this high, they really can’t afford to waste any chances.
As long as Barcelona can impose their quality upfront and remain fully focused to avoid any slip ups at the back, Culers can expect the legendary Xavi Hernandez to be lifting Barcelona’s fifth big-eared trophy after the final in his last ever game with his childhood club.
The Quote: "Barcelona are close to perfection. The moment is upon us. For us it is a unique opportunity to show the world of what we are capable of. I think we will have the ball and more control than Juventus. They will want the ball as well. Juventus had the courage to come out and play at the Santiago Bernabéu. We will put pressure on them up front as we always do. It’s a final and anything can happen. Juventus are not in the final by accident. We know it will be a great game.” - Gerard Piqué.