SO HERE it is – the world’s premier knockout football tournament has reached its crescendo with Italy’s Juventus facing off against Spain’s Barcelona for the privilege of call themselves the Kings of Europe.
As if winning Europe’s most prestigious tournament was not enough, both teams are also chasing the treble of titles in 2015, with Juventus and Barcelona winning their domestic league titles and their respective country’s knockout cup competitions.
Barcelona is searching for their fifth Champions League crown, while Juventus are chasing just their third European title and their first in 19 years.
This will be the first time the two sides have met in a Champions League final.
Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
Saturday, June 6th, 8:45pm local time
Sunday, June 7th, 4:45am Australian Eastern Standard Time
Free to air: SBS – coverage begins at 4:15am Sunday, June 7th
Foxtel: ESPN – coverage begins at 4:00am Sunday, June 7th
Barcelona $1.61 with Sportsbet
Squads for Saturday
Buffon(GK) Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Barzagli, Evra, Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, Vidal, Tévez, Morata
Ter Stegen(GK) Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitić, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suárez, Neymar
The X-Factor – who has the ability to change the game?
Junventus – Paul Pogba
When it comes to sheer ability and enigmatic brilliance it is hard to look past match-winning Frenchman Paul Pogba.
Pogba’s unrivalled athleticism, matched with fantastic goal sense and ability to play teammates into dangerous positions sets him apart, but his long range shooting is the main factor Barca will need to shut down, with the French prodigy scoring five goals from outside the box this season in Serie A.
Paul Pogba is $7 with Sportsbet to score at any time during regulation in the UEFA Champions League final.
Barcelona – Lionel Messi
Would you expect anyone different?
The Argentinian mastermind has been pivotal in his side’s rise to this year’s final, either scoring or playing a decisive role in every game for Barca since the knockout stage.
Along with this, Messi has scored in the previous two Champions League finals he has played in, if he is able to score a third in Berlin, he will be the first man ever to find the net in three separate Champions League finals.
Boasting a great turn of speed, quick feet, wonderful ball control and the ability to shoot from almost any position on the pitch, Messi is almost an impossible task to oppose.
Juventus just have to hope the great one has an off night.
Lionel Messi is $4.50 with William Hill to score the first goal of the UEFA Champions League Final.
First goal scorer – who can hit the back of the net first?
One thing neither team lack is creativity and goal scoring ability in the front third of the pitch, with world-class talent on both sides of the park.
Barcelona’s main strike force of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have had no problem scoring goals across all competitions this season, with the troublesome trio combining for a staggering 120 goals – the most by any Spanish front three in history.
It is hard to predict just who of the three will strike first for the Spanish champions, but with his eagerness to impress, particularly after making it clear he left Liverpool in search of a Champion’s League title, Luis Suarez is the man that looks most likely, with the Uruguayan international paying $6 with Bet365 to score the opener in Berlin.
When it comes to Juventus there is one man and one man only who stands out the most up front, the infamous Carlos Tevez.
Tevez has been a brilliant acquisition for the Italian champs since crossing from English rivals Manchester City two years ago and has been instrumental in his team’s rise from European has-beens to genuine Champions League title contenders.
The Argentine loves a goal like no other and is one of the most ruthless finishers in front of goal currently on earth. Carlos Tevez is paying $9 to open the scoring in Germany’s capital via Sportsbet.
This year’s Champions League Final looms as an absolute classic with two teams that possess attacking flair and a plethora of goal scoring options ready to put it all on the line to etch their name in footballing folklore.
Juventus had to do it the hard way coming in, defeating Real Madrid across two legs – which is arguably a more daunting task then the one-off final against Barcelona. They possess the defensive capabilities to stifle a team and force them into making mistakes.
One man Juventus will have to do it without is Giorio Chiellini, who has been sidelined with a calf injury. The Italian centre-back was set to mark Luis Suarez, the man that bit him in the 2014 World Cup finals.
Chilean superstar Arturo Vidal has been in stellar form for Juventus, and will pair off with Italian juggernaut Andrea Pirlo to provide the creativity that Carlos Tevez and Paul Pogba require to make an impact.
Vidal is Juventus’ designated penalty taker, which means he is always in the frame for a goal if a penalty is awarded. Vidal is at $7 to score at any time in regulation with Sportsbet.
Barcelona has multiple avenues to goal and a myriad many players capable of winning the game singlehandedly.
The much lauded big-three for Barca; Messi, Neymar and Suarez’s quality is already known, but once you think you have done the job quelling those three, up steps Andres Iniesta whose skill in finding the net after surging forward from a midfield position is legendary.
The $10 quote via Sportsbet for Iniesta to find the back of the net in the final is enticing given the occasion and the imprint the Barcelona captain will want to have on the game.
In the end Barcelona’s unrivalled goal scoring power should prove far too much for a brave Juventus team, who have too many options across the pitch that are capable of finding the back of the net.
Barcelona to win 3-1 at $15 via William Hill