Barcelona and Juventus will meet in the 2015 Champions League Final scheduled for June 6 in Berlin, Germany.
In the semifinals, Barcelona bulldozed Bayern Munich and Juventus rallied past Real Madrid to set up a final that features two teams that sit atop of the Spanish and Italian leagues, respectively.
Real Madrid versus Barcelona may have seemed like the sexier final, but the Champions League is a competition designed to match up teams from different countries in order to determine the best club football team in Europe. Barcelona has already edged Real Madrid on two domestic fronts, and a Champions League Final between the two Spanish giants may have drawn record ratings, but it would hardly have proved anything at this late stage in the season.
Barcelona is the best team in Spain, and Juventus is the best team in Italy. Now, these are the two best teams in Europe with the winner taking home the most highly coveted trophy in club football.
This edition may be special
The Champions League Final expects to be a culmination of a trophy-laden season for both sides. Both Barcelona and Juventus are in line to claim the European treble with the Champions League trophy featuring as the centerpiece of an historic season.
While Italian football may be on the decline, Juventus has dominated Serie A and already secured its fourth straight Scudetto. Juventus rules Italy.
Added to the league success, Juve is in its first Coppa Italia Final since 2012, and the Old Lady of Italian football has not won the domestic cup since 1995.
Incidentally, Juventus has not won the Champions League since 1996, and the last time the team from Turin made the European final was 2003. Long overdue in the domestic and European cup competitions, Juventus is on the verge of a European treble, and the Italian giant is the only side that can unequivocally claim supremacy in Europe with a victory over mighty Barcelona on June 6.
For Barcelona, La Liga is all but secured with the Catalans needing one win in their last two games to officially claim the league title.
Also, the Blaugrana are in the Copa del Rey Final, where they will face Athletic Bilbao a week before the Champions League Final. If all goes according to plan, Barcelona will enter the European title game with the European treble on the line.
The Messi factor
While Juventus is a balanced group that features morphing tactics mixed with proven professionals, the difference, of course, is Lionel Messi.
The Argentine’s 40 goals in La Liga and 10 goals in the Champions League complement his 18 assists in La Liga and four assists in European play. Messi is on a mission, and the 2015 Ballon d’Or likely already has his name on it despite the fact that the calendar only reads May.
Surrounded by mere mortals, Messi has been playing at a level that seems extraterrestrial, and his signature moment came in the first leg of the semifinal against Bayern Munich.
“Only football can make you feel like this,” commentator Martin Tyler exclaimed after Messi destroyed Jerome Boateng’s ankles, shut off the defender’s mind and crushed the German’s soul with the divine touch seen across the world. One final brush stroke flicked the ball past the best goalkeeper in the world, Manuel Neuer, and past a defender valiantly attempting to clear the ball with a bicycle kick off the goal line.
Unlike Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Messi would not be denied a date in the Champions League Final. The little artist had painted his latest masterpiece with millions around the world wondering what he will create next.
“He is the best player of all time,” manager Pep Guardiola said after Messi undressed his Bayern Munich side in the semifinals. “I compare him with Pelé. I am so happy to see this football.”
Pelé famously won the World Cup three times with Brazil to cement his legacy as the greatest player of all time. Barcelona’s semifinal was defined by Messi’s moment of brilliance, and the 27-year-old’s sporting legacy may ultimately be defined by the Champions League.
During Messi’s reign in Spain, Barcelona has reached three Champions League Finals and won each of them. Messi is on the verge of winning his fourth Champions League title, though he did not feature past the Round of 16 in his first European trophy.
Winning three Champions Leagues as the centerpiece would certainly help Messi advance his argument against the all-time greats of the game, and betting against Messi and Barcelona in this final is not a safe bet.
Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar each score to beat out Carlos Tevez’s lone strike. Messi gets a goal and an assist. Barcelona 3-1 Juventus.
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