The champions of Italy and Spain will face off in the 2015 Champions League final on June 6th. Juventus did magnificently well in the Santiago Bernabeu to prevent a El Clasico final, and manager Massimiliano Allegri will want to end his first season in Turin with a treble. It will be an intriguing tactical battle between Allegri and Barca boss Luis Enrique, with three match-ups key to who prevails in Berlin.
Carlos Tevez vs Javier Mascherano
Once inseparable even to the point both first stepped onto Europe’s shores at the slightly unfashionable West Ham United, Argentinean duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano will be reunited on opposing sides, and likely to directly come up against each other for most of the match.
With strike partner and semifinal hero Alvaro Morata likely to spearhead the attack, Tevez will look to drop deep to receive the ball and link up with the midfield. The Argentinean attacker is able to ride challenges and dribble at defenders, and will be key to keeping hold of possession whenever Juve has the ball. Mascherano will likely start alongside Gerard Pique at the centre of defence, with the Argentine’s tough-tackling midfield tendencies meaning Luis Enrique will look to Mascherano to step up from Barca’s defensive line and be the first to engage any Juve attackers.
Tevez will be looking to bring the likes of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba into play, while also laying the ball wide for Juve’s wing-backs. With most of Juve’s attacks coming through the former Manchester United forward, Mascherano – himself a former Liverpool man – will be key to stopping Tevez from dictating play in Barca’s final third, and ultimately any chance Juve might have of scoring a goal in the final.
Patrice Evra vs Lionel Messi
Assuming Luis Enrique continues with Lionel Messi as an inside right forward – with doubts over Luis Suarez’s fitness – the Argentine will face up against another former United player in Patrice Evra.
Messi may find a lot of space should Allegri deploy a 5-3-2 formation with wing-backs, but one doubts that the Italian would allow his wing-backs to fly forward at will, leaving huge spaces behind for the likes of Neymar and Messi to exploit. It will then be likely that Evra will have a man marking job on Messi. As the little Argentine prefers to cut in on his favoured left foot, Evra might find it awkward to have to defend with his body shaped more onto his right foot. The French defender will need Giorgio Chiellini to come across to help him, which may in turn leave space for Suarez – or whoever starts as Barca’s main striker.
With Dani Alves likely to bomb forward and continue his almost telepathic relationship with Messi on the right touchline, Evra will have his work cut out. The Frenchman will also need his compatriot, Paul Pogba, another former United player, to track back from midfield to prevent any chance of Messi and Alves doubling up on him.
Andrea Pirlo (+Arturo Vidal) vs Ivan Rakitic (+Andres Iniesta)
The area where the Italian midfield maestro patrols will be where the game is ultimately won and lost. Much of Barca’s play will be in front of Juve’s back four, as the forwards and full-backs constantly time their runs in-behind Juve’s backline waiting for the perfect pass through. For Juve, much of their attacking play will start from Andrea Pirlo, who sits just in front of his back four.
Allegri will need Pirlo to find his passing range, long and short, to either release a forward player or relieve pressure off what would likely be a besieged defence. For Luis Enrique, Barca needs to stop Pirlo. Luis Enrique will look to Ivan Rakitic to both do a job on Pirlo and carry out his usual facilitating role.
Chile midfielder Vidal will need to cover Pirlo well and protect his midfield partner, while looking to use his athleticism to support the attack. Vidal will likely have to try to help stop Rakitic’s midfield partner, Andres Iniesta, driving forward from deep and threading his usual dangerous forward passes. Whichever midfield duo can take hold of the game will significantly swing the final towards their side’s favour.
And so, who do you think will prevail in Berlin?