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Going for three
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 03 - 06 - 2015

A historic season is awaiting either Barcelona or Juventus after both them sealed the domestic double before they meet in the final of the Champions League on 6 June.
If there is one game the whole world waits for more than the World Cup final it's the final of the Champions League.
This final will be no different. Arguably the best attacking trio in the history of the game – Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Neymar and signing of the season Luis Suarez -- will come up against Juventus and one of the best defences in Europe this season. And it's not just about the defence for the Italians; their main strikers Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata are scoring freely with Morata scoring in both legs of the semi-finals to knock his former team Real Madrid out of the competition.
Who are the favourites and why? Barcelona is the clear favourite to win the game and the competition as they have the most dangerous attacking trio in the history of football. Messi, who'll no doubt win the Ballon d'or at the end of this year, on Saturday scored two goals in the final of the Spanish Cup with the first of his double against Athletico Bilbao hailed as one of the best goals he has ever scored, and no need to talk much about the number of extraordinary goals scored by the Argentine. Suarez set up Neymar to score as Barca ran out 3-1 winners.
As for Juventus, who'll enter the game as the clear underdogs, they were made to work extra hard to clinch the cup as they defeated Lazio 2-1 in extra time when loan signing Matri scored the winner a minute after Lazio hit both posts.
The league title was sealed long time ago for Juventus while Barcelona ensured it a week before the end of the campaign. Juventus will still fancy their chances as the pressure will be on Barcelona and not on them in addition to the fact that any team can beat any other superior team in just one game. If this tie was played over two legs it would have probably been near impossible for the Italians to beat Barca on aggregate.
The final will also be the last game Xavi, the best midfielder in the history of the club, plays for Barcelona. He's leaving to Qatar after this game.
Egyptian football fans are waiting for the game as if it were a local derby pitting the powerhouses Ahly and Zamalek. Over 80 per cent of them think that Barca will win the game because of the much talked about trio, especially Messi. A random survey answered by 40 rabid football fans saw 33 of them say Barcelona will win the game in normal time while five said Juventus will win and two said Juventus will win in a penalty shootout.
The survey included reasons for the answers and most favoured Barcelona revolved around their attacking trio in general and Messi in specific while the answers that favoured Juventus centred on their brilliant defence led by the legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Two fans say Buffon will win for Juventus the game in penalties.
Apart from the game's predictions, most Egyptian fans will be supporting Barcelona while those who will support Juventus are either Real Madrid fans or simply just hate Barcelona. They are not really Juventus fans as the number of Juventus supporters in Egypt is relatively small when compared to Europe's top guns.
All the predictions and all the talk surrounding the game will mean absolutely nothing once both teams march onto the field. Pressure plays a big role in these kinds of games. Barcelona might be favourites and rightly so but Juventus, led by their classy Andrea Pirlo, Buffon in goal and goal machine Tevez will have the experience needed to deal with the magic of Barca's players.
The Italians are known for defence and so all it would take from Juventus is to score once, then park the bus the rest of the way.
The game could be decided by a single goal by any of the teams or it could be decided by the out of this world Messi. Messi at his best is unstoppable and this means that Juventus' players and especially its defenders will have to be alert throughout the game to stop him, let alone Neymar and Suarez who are both looking for their first Champions League medals.
One thing we're sure of is that this will be a game to remember.
The writer is a freelance journalist.


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