The Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus brings together the best forward line in world football and one of the best defences. The attacking might of Barca can hold sway and the Catalans can be champions of Europe for the fifth time. The two sides are the current champions of Spain and Italy and amongst the richest clubs in the world. Money buys success at this level and Barcelona are wealthier than Juventus.
Sepp Blatter Resigns
The final of the biggest club tournament in the world comes at the end of a week in which Sepp Blatter resigned as the President of FIFA. It seems the organisation is corrupt with high ranking officials arrested for taking bribes. The US investigators have said this is just the start and Blatter could be implicated when more crimes are revealed. The biggest crime could be the number of deaths in the building of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
That country has no football pedigree and the World Cup hosts should be genuine contenders for the title. The tournament is already set to cause disruption in many leagues if it is moved to winter because the summer is too hot for players to cope. There are also question marks about the choice of Russia to host the next World Cup in 2018. If plans are changed England has the stadia and infrastructure to step in at short notice. The next developments in the affair are very much dependent on who is appointed as President but that process will take at least four months.
Champions League Final in Berlin
The actual football should now take centre stage and the Champions League decider in Berlin on Saturday should be a classic. Barcelona are clear favourites to lift the trophy but nothing should be taken for granted even if they take the lead as the final has produced some memorable drama and the European Cup final does not always run to form. The champions of Spain are fancied to win the Champions League for the fourth time in ten years but there could be an upset.
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In 2012 Chelsea beat Bayern Munich after extra time and penalties in the final played in the German’s own stadium. Bayern took the lead after 83 minutes but Chelsea equalised with two minutes to go and went on to win the penalty shootout. In 2005 Liverpool were losing 3-0 at half time to AC Milan. They scored three goals in six second half minutes and also won a penalty shootout in a final called ‘The Miracle of Istanbul.’ In this case Barcelona have the pedigree to justify favouritism.
They have played in 7 finals winning 4 while Juventus have won 2 but lost 5 times in the final. Barcelona first won the old European Cup in 1992. They beat Sampdoria 1-0 in the final at Wembley. The winning goal was scored by Ronald Koeman who is now the manager of Southampton in the English Premier League. That side also included Pep Guardiola who is the most successful manager in Barcelona’s history and is now the manager of Bayern Munich.
Juventus’s only success in the European Cup was in the 1984-85 season. However, the one-nil win over Liverpool was overshadowed by the tragedy at the Heysel Stadium where 39 Italian fans lost their lives. The match went ahead in a subdued atmosphere and Juve won thanks to a questionable penalty. The only goal of the game was scored by Michel Platini who is the favourite to be the new President of FIFA. Juventus won the Champions League in 1996, beating Ajax on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
The last 10 Champions League finals have seen an average 2.9 goals scored in 90 minutes. Four of the last 10 finals have gone to extra-time with 3 of those games decided by penalties. Only two of the 59 finals in the history of the European Cup and Champions League have ended 0-0 at 90 minutes. In 38 matches in the Spanish league Barcelona scored 110 goals and conceded 21. Juventus played 38 fixtures in the Italian league, scoring 72 goals and conceding 24.
Attack And Defence
Both sides had the best attacking and defending records in their respective leagues but Juventus were far less prolific in front of goal. It helps if you have the best player in the world scoring goals for fun and Neymar and Luis Suarez are not bad alternatives if Lionel Messi does not score for Barcelona. He was voted the best player at the last World Cup but it is for club not country that he has broken scoring records. In 481 matches for Barcelona Messi has scored 412 goals but just 45 in 97 internationals for Argentina.
The match could develop into a contest between the Juventus defence and Messi. The Barcelona striker can outscore the opposition and help his club win the Champions League for the first time since 2011. Barcelona’s flair can win the day over the Juventus defence in a match that could restore some faith in the most popular sport in the world in front of a massive global television audience.
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