Juventus, Barcelona, and Beyond: How the Champions League Final Challenges What We Thought We Knew About Soccer

June 7, 2015

image-a-24_1433625344988
“Thanks to Sepp Blatter, the FBI, a hastily called FIFA press conference, and years and years of unchecked corruption, the state of the game has been the talk of the soccer town this week. Of course, none of that talk has anything to do with, well, the way soccer is played on the field. Thankfully, tomorrow we get the biggest (men’s) soccer game of the year: the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus. With championship games, there’s always a temptation to turn the result into a referendum after the fact, to take what happened in the final and retroactively apply it to the season gone by. But if Barcelona lose tomorrow despite their status as heavy favorites, it doesn’t mean they were any less dominant for the six months prior, and if Juventus get blown out, that doesn’t make their unlikely finals run any less meaningful. It’s not the final game that makes the trend; it’s everything leading up to it.” Grantland

How do Juventus stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona’s front three?
“It’s a question that opponents have been asking since the four-year-old Lionel Messi first wandered on to a dusty pitch in the Rosário suburb of Grandoli, nudged the ball in front of him and set off on a slaloming gambeta that took him past three players. How do you stop him? Before the semi-final Pep Guardiola, who perhaps knows his game as well as anybody, admitted that you just couldn’t. As Messi demonstrated against Athletic Bilbao in last Saturday’s Copa del Rey final, when he’s in the sort of form he is in at the moment, even surrounding him with three players and placing another three between him and the goal isn’t enough. So what do Juventus do?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Vintage Barcelona display suggests Champions League legacy has a future
“The holy grail of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League remains unclaimed but this Barcelona, after winning a third European title in seven years on Saturday, can surely be regarded now as not merely a great team but a great dynasty. This Barça perhaps now stand comparison with the Real Madrid team that won the first five European Cups. That is not to say that winning three times in seven years with three semi-final appearances is greater than winning five in a row, it’s to say that the core of this Barça side has remained more consistent than the core of that Madrid one; that – remarkably in this age of transfer-market frenzy – this Barcelona have managed to keep winning with essentially the same players.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona | Barcelona’s quality, and poor positioning from Juventus make the difference
“We all waited for this fantastic evening, and what a game it was. Barcelona took on the lead very early after a pretty shaky period for Juventus, thanks to the man of the match, Iniesta who found Rakitic with a cut-back pass into the penalty-spot. Juventus did eventually shake things up and did also find the equalizer to keep the final dramatic enough, but with the attacking-trio of Barcelona, Juventus proved to be too vulnerable to direct counter-attacks.” Outside of the Boot

4 Champions League Final Storylines – and How Messi’s Presence Could Make Them Irrelevant
“In coming up with an angle for writing this, I was conflicted. On one hand, there are an exorbitant number of spectacular storylines for Saturday’s Champions League Final. When this many legends-in-the-making take the pitch at once, there are bound to be more than a few fascinating plot points. But then I kept coming back to one thing: Lionel Messi will be on the field. I’m going to run through four of the most interesting storylines for Barcelona vs. Juventus on Saturday, and then I will get to Messi. As you read them, just remember the presence of that diminutive Argentine could render all of them basically irrelevant. Here we go.” Soccer Pro

Europe’s best, Barcelona finishes treble run with 3-1 win over Juventus
“Barcelona capped an incredible season with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday, sealing a treble of trophies and ending the 2014-2015 European soccer season on an exciting high note. Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring in the fourth minute with the fourth-fastest goal in a Champions League final, and it looked like Barcelona would ease to the title. But Gianluigi Buffon made a number of clutch saves, and Alvaro Morata, the former Real Madrid striker, found an equalizer in the 55th minute, finishing off a rebound from a Carlos Tevez saved shot.  Luis Suárez scored the eventual winner 13 minutes later, though, and Neymar, who earlier had what he thought was Barca’s third goal ruled out for a handball, tallied the insurance goal with the last kick of the game.” SI

How Barcelona’s tactics helped it beat Juventus in Champions League final
“As long as it played to its capabilities, Barcelona always seemed likely to win the Champions League final against Juventus on Saturday. It did just that, taking its fifth European Cup with a 3-1 victory while controlling most of the match with its flexible possession. Barcelona’s unchanged lineup set out in its traditional 4-3-3 system. Neymar played wider than Lionel Messi, who cut inside as a situational No. 10. A relatively flat line of three in midfield filled in the front line’s gaps, and the fullbacks also provided width when the forwards tucked in.” SI


Smart spending has allowed Juventus to close the gap with Europe’s elite

June 7, 2015

“Mixing misfits is an art, and the Old Lady is ready to show off her collection. She’s been welcoming in the young, the old and the unwanted for years, but she’s now grown a bit more discerning, and the result is a Juventus side set to challenge for the UEFA Champions League trophy. It’s not a lack of money that’s kept Juventus from splashing out on flashy buys. It’s now one of the 10 richest soccer clubs in the world, valued at $837 million. The club’s ownership of Juventus Stadium, a rarity in Italy, has dramatically increased its matchday takings, and having the biggest share of the Serie A broadcasting pie adds to its revenue. But Juventus still operates as though it’s on the verge of losing money, with a smaller budget than that of even West Ham United.” Fusion


Wolfsburg 3-1 Dortmund: Wolfsburg comfortable despite rarely dominating

June 7, 2015

“Jurgen Klopp waved farewell to Dortmund with a defeat in the German Cup final. There were few surprises in Dieter Hecking’s team selection. Andre Schurrle continues to be left on the bench ,with both wide players in good form. Timm Klose has displaced Robin Knoche at the heart of Wolfsburg’s backline, while Naldo – who had been an injury doubt – was fit to start alongside him.” Zonal Marking