So, last night Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 at home, a fantastic result for the side from Turin, putting them firmly in the driving seat of the tie, and giving them a great chance of getting into the Semi-Finals.
But, as we saw in the last round, we cannot completely write the Catalans off. They were beaten 4-0 away in Paris in the first leg, but they pulled it back to 4-3 on aggregate in the second leg before conceding a seemingly lethal away goal, meaning the needed a 6-1 win on the nights with just 30 mins to get 3 goals. It seemed an impossible feat when the clock hit the 85th minute and they hadn’t scored one. Even when Brazilian winger, Neymar, curled in a perfectly placed free kick in the 88th minute the task looked well beyond Barça, but when he converted a penalty in the first minute of 5 minutes of added time it became a much less steep mountain to climb. Finally, with the last touches of the game, Neymar lofted a brilliant ball over the Parisian defence, Sergi Roberto runs onto it from the wide left and slips it into the net to make the impossible a reality.
But can Barça do it again? I think not. The difference may be a goal less, but Juventus are a very different side to PSG. PSG came to The Nou Camp expecting a simple game where they could just run down the whole 90 minutes and reap the rewards of their performance in the first leg. However, it is evident that that was never going to work. PSG’s defence was totally unprepared for the onslaught that Barcelona sent forwards during the second leg. PSG just expected them to just roll over, which, in hindsight, is, quite frankly, idiotic.
Juventus will know that Barça wont just lay down and accept the defeat, they’ll know that they need to stick tight to their man, and make sure that their full-backs are ready to work their socks off following Messi and Neymar down the wings, which PSG just didn’t do. They left Meunier and Kurzawa to go up and try and diffuse the Barça midfield, when, really, they should be sticking organised with their centre-backs to hold off MSN.
You knew, straight from kickoff tonight, that Juve were much more alert and ready for the tie than Barcelona. The Old Lady began with their defensive line just 10 metres or so behind the halfway line, and immediately pushed up, put the Catalans under pressure and won the ball almost instantly. Barça couldn’t get some decent possession outside their own half for the first 10 minutes, and by then they were already one-nil down to a Paulo Dybala Beauty.
Dybala is one of the most promising talents in European football. He can play on the left, on the right, and in behind, but he performs best up top through the middle. He has scored 16 goals, got 6 assists and won Man Of The Match 5 times in 35 games in all competitions this season (including last night).
You can’t say Barça didn’t have chances tonight. They produced around 5 good chances, the best of which came in the 21st minute just before Juve’s second goal, where Leo Messi slid a perfect pass through the gap in the defence and found veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta, who tried to tuck it into the far post, but ‘keeper Gigi Buffon had other ideas, pushing it wide of the post and out for a Barça corner. Luis Suarez also missed a good chance to make it 3-1 in the 68th minute, where another excellent Messi pass found the Uruguayan, who should have scored but dragged it just wide of the far post. How vital could that end up being over the course of the tie?
However, Juve should also have had a fourth goal, as they put it into the net, but Sami Khedira was wrongly ruled offside before he played it across to Juan Cuadrado who tucked it home. Again, how important could that end up being?
The average positioning of they players tonight speaks volumes about the performance of the sides. Barça’s attack held it’s shape well (possibly because they had so little to do), however their midfield was a messy clump, and they only played two centre backs in position with no recognised full-backs, whereas The Old Lady Were organised, strict and clever, with only forwards Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain venturing out of their specified position.
Juve played a clever 4-1-3-1-1 last night, where Paulo Dybala was encouraged to drop back into midfield to try and dissipate the quick passing of the Catalans, and Sami Khedira seemed to play in the Makelele role and help out the defence and sometimes push up into midfield. This meant that Barça struggled to play the quick passing they are iconic for, and the vital passing lanes from the midfield into the attack were closed off. Whereas Barça played their usual tactics, play a 4-3-3 and use Iniesta and Rakitic to find the gaps into MSN. They were simply unprepared for the tactical genius of The Old Lady.
But you never know. Football is an unpredictable game, and when Barça play well, they win big, so if they can show their iconic good football, then another dramtic turnaround could be on the cards. But, for me, Juve will know better than to let that happen, and I can’t see them letting it slip if they get a fourth goal.
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