Gigi Buffon is as frank and honest as they come and so when the Juventus captain was asked what the chances are of his team overcoming Barcelona in Berlin on Saturday he didn’t lie.
“A little less than 35%,” the veteran said.
“The same odds we had against Real Madrid in the semi-finals. It’s undeniable. Actually, it’s self-evident when you look at the players they’ve got and the football they’re playing.”
Marcello Lippi, the last Juventus coach to win the Champions League, believes Luis Enrique’s Barca vintage is even better than Pep’s.
“I’ve been saying it for a while,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “Barcelona are the best team in history.”
Pavel Nedved, now a board member at Juventus, joked: “When you start a game with Neymar, Messi and Suarez up front it’s like already being 2-0 up.”
However, the mood in the Juventus camp isn’t resigned to a fate as defeated finalists. Instead there is a sense that it is their destiny to win this trophy, that the stars are aligning for them just as they improbably did for Chelsea three years ago.
The road to Berlin has gone through Dortmund like it did for Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Pirlo at the 2006 World Cup. They got the luck of the draw in the quarter-final, ending up with Monaco, a tie that was decided by a penalty kick awarded for a foul outside the area. Holders Real Madrid awaited them in the semi-finals as they did on Juventus’ last appearance at this stage in 2003 and like then, the Old Lady surprisingly knocked them out. Then there is a poignant anniversary. This final comes 30 years after Heysel and honoring the memory of the 39 fans who lost their lives in that stadium disaster is present in the players’ minds.
Don’t underestimate how intangibles like these can inexplicably take on a life of their own and generate a belief within a group that becomes self-fulfilling. There’s a humility within the Juventus dressing room. Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio were there in Rimini, Crotone and Arezzo when the club was down in Serie B. It’s been a long way back and many take it for granted. They forget that before Juventus opened this winning cycle of four straight league titles, they finished seventh in back-to-back years. Their appreciation for everything they have accomplished in reaching this final is a touch more profound, one imagines, than that experienced by Barcelona’s players of course for whom, with the exception of some new signings, this is relatively routine.
Juventus, however, aren’t in Germany just to participate. They deserve to be there. Both legs against Dortmund and the performance in Turin against Real were statement wins. Leonardo Bonucci believes their defence is “the best in the world” right now.
“No one protects themselves as well as Juventus and at the same time have as much quality in the middle of the park and up front,” Lippi adds. The midfield has few rivals. Pirlo is an all-time great of the game. Marchisio has been Juventus’ most consistent midfielder this season. Paul Pogba is Europe’s most wanted while Arturo Vidal is a player Antonio Conte said he would go to war with.
While it admittedly doesn’t quite compare with Barcelona’s MSN – heck, nothing does – Juventus’ frontline of Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata was the undoing of some of the finalists from recent memory, Dortmund and Real. Tevez is one of the most underrated players of his generation. Like Patrice Evra and Pirlo, he has been here and won this competition before. This season has been his best ever. Seven of his 29 goals have come in the Champions League. Compatriot Javier Mascherano, the Barca centre-back, is under no illusion of the task awaiting his defence in diminishing the threat El Apache provides. Morata meanwhile is precocious, quick on the counter, lethal in the area and has that knack for scoring in big games. He found the net home and away against Dortmund and Real.
The exchange has Barcelona as overwhelming favourites to win @ [1.63] and Juventus coach Max Allegri would understand if this were over two legs. But in 90 or 120 minutes anything can happen. So why not back Juventus to upset the odds, win a third European Cup and the treble @ [6.4].
Juventus to win @ [6.4]