Barcelona aren’t the only Champions League finalist that could be in line for a historic treble. Juventus just added the Coppa Italia to a haul that’s already seen Max Allegri’s team crowned Serie A champions this season. And while popular wisdom has it that Juve have no chance of beating Barça and winning a historic treble, the same was said before they beat Real Madrid in the semis.
Okay, granted, we’re talking about a Real Madrid team that’s had its problems this season. Luka Modric’s injury has hit Carlo Ancelotti’s team hard. Gareth Bale is being persecuted by his own fans, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s conduct appears to be increasingly getting under his teammates’ skin. As opposed to a Barcelona side that’s recently regained its status as the best club side in world football, and boasts a player who’s restored his own standing as the world’s best in Lionel Messi.
But Juventus have had a lock on the Serie A title for several seasons and have just won the club’s first double in 20 years. This is Italian football, which everyone knows, ain’t what it used to be. But as the saying goes, you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and that’s what Juve have done this season. This is a team that doesn’t give up many goals, with enough quality throughout the squad to hurt most teams going forward. They are also a team that’s used to winning.
They’ve also had a few lucky breaks. In the Coppa final, Lazio struck the crossbar, just as James Rodriguez had for Real Madrid in the semis. But while quality will tell in terms of who wins a long Serie A campaign, it takes a bit of luck to win a treble. So far, Juve have had it. The team also has impressive depth, with Alexander Matri coming on for Fernando Llorente to score the winner against Lazio. Alvaro Morata meanwhile, was given the day off.
Apart from depth and luck, another thing this Juventus squad has going for it is experience, chiefly in midfielder Andrea Pirlo and goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon; both 2006 World Cup winners with Italy. Up top, striker Carlos Tevez is another of Juve’s “old heads,” although the former Man City player must compete for a spot with Morata, Llorente, and possibly now, Matri.
In midfield, Allegri must decide if he wants to pair Pirlo with the more steady and reliable Claudio Marchisio or take a gamble on Paul Pogba, who while more talented than Marchisio, is also prone to be more erratic.
The back four of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Stephen Lichtsteiner made a good account of themselves against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. But how will they fare against Barcelona’s front trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Chiellini’s World Cup adversary, Luis Suarez?
Some took that Allegri played 3-5-2 against Lazio as a sign he might do the same against Barça. While assigning a defender to each of Barça’s front three, Allegri could flood the midfield with the likes of Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio and the excellent Arturo Vidal, who in particular looks the right kind of player to disrupt a midfield engine like Barça’s.
Will it be enough to get past this overwhelmingly favored Barcelona team? It’s difficult to say. But it’s definitely too soon to count out this Juventus side that has thus far, swept all that’s come before it this season.