History will be made, regardless which team emerges victorious at this Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final.
If Italian league champions Juventus lifts the European Cup, it will join seven other clubs who have won their domestic league title, domestic cup and become the champions of Europe in a single season.
Spanish giants Barcelona, meanwhile, will be the first club to repeat the unique feat of winning the treble of trophies if it triumphs at Berlin’s Olympiastadion. The Spanish league champions won its first treble in 2009, coach Josep Guardiola’s first season at the club.
Heading into Saturday’s final, Juventus and Barcelona are being managed by two managers who are in their debut season – Juventus’ Massimiliano Allegri and Barcelona’s Luis Enrique. Both of them have impressed so far, having secured their team’s domestic title and domestic cup in style.
Juventus wrapped up their 31st Serie A title comfortably with a few games to spare and won their Italian cup in a hard-fought victory over rivals Lazio – winning the match 2-1 to claim their 10th cup.
Their excellent form has also transcended on the continental stage as Allegri’s men are on a nine-game unbeaten run in the competition, keeping five clean sheets.
Barcelona however had a slightly more tumultuous season as they had to fend off last season’s La Liga winners, Atletico Madrid and fierce local rivals Real Madrid to win their 23rd league title with a game remaining. Their Spanish cup tie was an easier affair for them though – beating Atletico Bilbao 3-1 at home for their 27th cup.
Both Juventus and Barcelona have only met three times in the history of the European Cup, with Barca having the slight edge with two wins. But their last meeting in 2003 saw the Italians grabbing victory. Interestingly, Barca manager Enrique captained the Catalans in that match.
For Juventus, this is their first Champions League final appearance since 2003 when they lost against Real Madrid. The Biaconeri will be out to prove that they are still a force to be reckoned with in Europe and win their third Champions League trophy.
Barcelona is back in the final after missing out the last three years and victory would give them their fifth European Cup. Its captain, Xavi Hernandez, who has been synonymous with Barcelona in the past decade, will be making his final appearance for the Catalans before he moves to Qatar.
Players to watch:
The two sides boast a wide array of stars and from young to old. A mixture of youth and experience will be on display in this game as the clubs try to gain the edge.
Alvaro Morata – The hero of Juventus’ semi-final, he scored against his former side Real Madrid to send the Old Lady to the final. If he makes an appearance, he would become only the 4th player to star in two Champions League finals in a row – previously appearing for Real last season and winning the cup.
Andrea Pirlo – Always cool and calm, count on Pirlo’s vision and experience to see Juventus through in the final. His passing will be crucial in opening up the sometimes questionable Barca defence who let in two goals in their last Champions League match.
Gianlugi Buffon – The veteran goalkeeper will be salivating at his opportunity to finally get a Champions League winners’ medal. Buffon is the sole survivor of the last Juventus side to appear in the final that lost. Tied for the most clean sheets in the tournament with six, Buffon will look to add another one to ensure victory for his side.
Lionel Messi – Regarded by many as the world’s best player ever, he scored twice in Barca’s Spanish cup win on Saturday. A scorer in Barcelona’s 2009 and 2011 victories, the four-time Ballon D’Or winner could become the first player to find the net in three UEFA Champions League finals.
Neymar – The Brazilian has had a remarkable season, scoring 37 goals in all competitions. Having scored in both of the semi-final legs against Bayern Munich, Neymar’s pace and dribbling ability will pose a threat.
Ivan Rakitic – A signing who has impressed this season, the Croatian has been a vital member of the Barca midfield. Touted as Xavi’s replacement, Rakitic is a box-to-box player with superb technique to boot.
Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichsteiner, Evra, Pogba, Marchisio, A.Pirlo, Vidal, Morata, Tevez
Ter Stegen, Pique, Alves, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Neymar, Messi, Suarez
Barcelona to win 3-1 and establish their dominance in Europe with the second treble success.