Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 4th 2015 Contents FOUR KEY PLAYERS
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, June 4, 2015
BARCELONA---The "best player in his-
tory" for his coach, an "extraterrestrial"
for his rivals, Lionel Messi is the undis-
puted leading man of the Champions
League final in Berlin on Saturday.
Facing Juventus, the Barcelona forward
can become the first player to score in
three Champions League finals as he
tries to clinch Barcelona its second ever
treble of titles in one season.
After a trophy-less 2013-14 season
that included Argentina s defeat in the
World Cup final, Messi is playing better
than ever, scoring seemingly at will,
while also acting as Barcelona s best
playmaker after moving back to the right
side of its attack.
If his highlight reel of one-of-a-kind
goals doesn t suffice, then here are the
raw numbers for Messi with Barcelona:
23 titles, 77 Champions League goals,
58 goals this season, 20 goals in 23 career
finals, four-time world player of the
year, and a club record 412 goals in 481
"Our dream is to win it all," Messi
said this week. (AP)
Barcelona s attack of Lionel Messi,
Luis Suarez, and Neymar doesn t scare
That s because the Italian champion
has a trio of its own---Gianluigi Buffon,
Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini---
who make up one of the meanest
defenses in Europe. The three of them
are a tight unit, marshalling the back
together for club and country for several
years, and if they deal with Messi in the
Champions League final on Saturday in
Berlin as effectively as they controlled
Cristiano Ronaldo in the semifinals
against Real Madrid, Juventus could pull
off a cup treble of its own.
Happy underdogs for the final, five
Juve players are worth an extra eye:
Barca players to watch in Champions League final
Juventus not scared of Barcelona trio
Barcelona fans will have their
fingers crossed that Luis Suarez
will be on his best behaviour in
Just like last season, Suarez
will end this campaign crossing
paths with Juventus' Giorgio
When they met at the World
Cup, Suarez bit the Italian
defender on the shoulder,
earning the Uruguay striker a
four-month ban from
competition and another black
mark on his resume.
Chiellini said this week he had
"no problem" with Suarez, and
that he would shake his hand,
even hug his aggressor.
Suarez has yet to speak about
the rematch with Chiellini.
Barcelona teammate Javier
Mascherano said Suarez was
focused only on winning the
Suarez has 24 goals despite
starting the season late while
completing his suspension. Add
Neymar's 38 goals and Messi's
haul, and the three have
combined for a staggering 120
strikes this season.
Sergio Busquets gives
Barcelona its centre of gravity,
linking its attack and defence.
From his hunting ground in the
heart of the midfield, the holding
midfielder excels at recovering
the ball to start Barcelona's
attack, just when opponents
finally thought it was safe to
He also acts as the main
passing outlet for his teammates
to ping the ball back and forth
before an incisive pass springs
Messi, Neymar or Suarez into
Busquets and fellow
midfielders Andres Iniesta and
Ivan Rakitic will likely go up
against Juventus' Andrea Pirlo,
Arturo Vidal, and Paul Pogba.
"We hope to win the battle in
midfield," Busquets said.
"Juventus have some
important players such as Vidal,
who is a very complete player.
We will try to be better than
With Dani Alves and Jordi Alba
focusing on attacking from the
wings, Barcelona's defense is left
to centre backs Gerard Pique and
Solid even when he is the only
man standing between an
attacker and the goalkeeper,
Pique is also one of his team's
most effective scorers.
He has netted seven goals, and
is the team's best weapon in set-
pieces, a facet of its attack that
coach Luis Enrique has improved
MARC-ANDRE TER STEGEN
While all the attention will be
on Barcelona's illustrious strikers,
its chances will also rest on 23-
year-old goalkeeper Marc-Andre
In his first season at Barcelona,
the young German has played in
the Champions League and the
Copa del Rey, leaving Claudio
Bravo to help reclaim the
Spanish league crown.
Ter Stegen has shown aplomb
beyond his years, helping
Barcelona win the Copa del Rey
last weekend, and he will oppose
Juventus' Gianluigi Buffon who,
at age 37, has 95 Champions
League appearances behind him.
You would have been hard pressed a
year ago to find anyone believing Tevez
would fire Juventus to a Champions
League final. Not only had the club crashed
out at the group stage last season, but
Tevez hadn't scored in the competition for
more than five years.
The transformation this season has
been huge. He has seven goals in the
league, adding to 20 in the Serie A, and
two in the Italian Super Cup.
"He has really taken us to another level,
he is a great champion, who is often
misjudged," Juventus teammate Claudio
"He has always been a team player, he
has worked so hard, and has become a
reference point, on the field and in the
dressing room. He is a really important
rock. I hope he can be especially so on
Goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon has
won almost every trophy in a 20-year
career---including the 2006 World Cup at
the same stadium in Berlin as the
Champions League final.
But he's never won the Champions
League. His one previous final, in 2003,
was lost to AC Milan.
Buffon, aged 37, keeps making
astonishing saves, enough for coach
Massimiliano Allegri to say his captain
ought to receive the Ballon d'Or. He
finished second to compatriot Fabio
Cannavaro in 2006.
Shutting out Messi, Neymar, and Suarez
would do his cause no end of good.
The world's best goalkeeper has never
been tested by the world's best outfield
player, as Buffon has never played against
He has faced Suarez twice, in the
Europa League and at last year's World
Cup, and shut him out. Neymar scored
once against Buffon, with a free kick for
Brazil at the 2013 Confederation's Cup.
Like Buffon, Andrea Pirlo is returning to
the scene of Italy's World Cup triumph.
However, unlike his Juventus and Italy
teammate, Pirlo's equally-impressive haul
of trophies includes two Champions
Leagues won while at AC Milan.
Pirlo is one of the most admired
midfielders in the world. Having just
turned 36, he no longer surges from
midfield but still sets up goals with passes
of breathtaking accuracy.
He is also so much of a free kick
specialist that any such situation, within
30 yards of goal, is coined "Pirlo territory."
At the other end of the age scale to Pirlo
is fellow midfielder Paul Pogba, who has
become a mainstay since his move from
Manchester United in 2012. Still only 22,
the final is a chance for the world to
admire the France international.
"It's a dream come true," said Pogba,
who has been the subject of intense
"I'm very happy with how things have
gone here. I don't regret anything."
After missing the quarterfinal against
Monaco and the first leg against Real
Madrid injured, Pogba put in some
lethargic performances, and was criticised
by Allegri for showboating.
Morata helped Real Madrid last season
to its tenth Champions League trophy
then transferred from his boyhood club to
The Spain forward scored in both legs of
the semifinal against his old club but didn't
celebrate out of respect. That wouldn't be
the case if he netted against Barcelona.
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