Barcelona are the bookies’ favourites to secure their fourth Champions League crown when they take on Juventus in this year’s final in Berlin on Saturday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
Barcelona come into the match having already secured the Primera Division and Copa del Rey titles in Luis Enrique’s debut season at the Camp Nou. They won La Liga by two points from Real Madrid after taking 94 points from 30 wins, four draws and just four defeats.
Enrique’s side overcame Bayern Munich in an entertaining semi-final clash. Lionel Messi (pictured) was the difference-maker in the first leg on home soil, coming alive in the final quarter-hour to score twice and provide the assist for the third, scored by Neymar. Two more goals from the latter saw Barcelona go through 5-3 on aggregate despite a 3-2 defeat in Munich.
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The Catalans struggled to find their rhythm during the first half of the season. Enrique consistently rotated his squad in search of a winning formula and was somewhat reliant on a strong defensive unit to pick up points. That all changed during the second half of the campaign, in which they scored an average of over three goals per match in romping to the title.
Once Luis Suarez had settled into his new environment, it quickly became clear that Barcelona were in possession of the deadliest front three in world football. Between them, he, Messi and Neymar have notched 106 goals in league and Champions League play to date. But the team have been impressive all over the pitch, with Gerard Pique another standout.
Enrique has no major injury concerns coming into the final, with Suarez and the resurgent Andres Iniesta both seemingly ready to play after shaking off their respective injuries.
Juventus, like Barcelona, have already secured a domestic double and are now just one win away from winning the first treble in the club’s history. They dominated Serie A, finishing 17 points clear of Roma in second, with 87 points from 26 wins, nine draws and three defeats.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side triumphed in a tightly contested semi-final against Real Madrid. Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez earned them a 2-1 first-leg lead after an impressive performance at the Juventus Arena. Madrid did, however, take an early lead on home soil, before Morata struck once more to see the Italians through to the final, 3-2 on aggregate.
Allegri was not a popular appointment when he took over from Antonio Conte last summer, but he has done an excellent job in Turin. He used Conte’s work as a base and gradually introduced his own ideas as the season progressed. Juventus have maintained the strength and energy inherent in Conte’s approach, while adding greater solidity and tactical flexibility.
With a highly experienced defensive unit, a midfield that includes the craft of Andrea Pirlo, the zest of Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio and an amalgam of the two in Paul Pogba, plus the irrepressible Tevez alongside Morata or Fernando Llorente up front, Juventus have been the clear class of the field in Italy, while also performing superbly in Europe.
Allegri will be without the injured Martin Caceres (ankle) for this showpiece, while Andrea Barzagli (thigh) and Giorgio Chiellini (calf) are both doubtful.
Juventus v Barcelona Champions League Final Preview’s Betting Tips
These two sides have met in European competition on six occasions, spread over three knockout round matches in the Champions League and now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup.
Barcelona emerged victorious from the 1986 and 1991 encounters, winning three of the four individual matches, while Juventus were 3-2 winners on aggregate in 2003.
Barcelona topped their group and have seen off Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich en route to Berlin. Enrique has formed an impressive side, who are solid in defence, deadly in attack and also capable of controlling the tempo of the game through possession. They have only twice failed to score in 35 matches this calendar year.
Juventus have the unenviable task of trying to curtail a front three who have scored more goals than their entire squad in league and Champions League play this season. They will need to be flawless from front to back if they are to have any chance of adding Barcelona to a list of scalps that currently includes Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid.
It is sure to be an intense and well-contested final, but Barcelona’s supreme quality in the final third should be enough to see them to victory. Our Champions League final preview betting tips are:
- Back Barcelona -1 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 9/8 (just over evens) with BetVictor. The bet pays out if they win by more than one goal, while your stake is returned if the winning margin is just a single goal.
- Messi has scored 53 goals in 50 appearances in league and Champions League play this season. He has also scored 20 goals in his 23 previous final appearances with Barcelona, including strikes in their Champions League final successes over Manchester United in 2009 and 2011. Back Lionel Messi to score at anytime @ best odds of evens with Skybet or Unibet.