Barcelona and Juventus compete tonight for Europe’s biggest club trophy at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
With both sides vying to complete a perfect season both domestically and in Europe, we give you five sub-plots to tonight’s game, which may just add an extra spice or an added incentive to the encounter.
5. Buffon’s Missing Trophy
Gianliuigi Buffon will always go down as a hero at the Turin club but he, as much as anyone, knows there is a slight blemish on his accolades as a player. He’s won everything there is to win in Italy but the Champions League has, thus far, eluded him. The closest he came was with the Old Lady in 2003 when they lost to Serie A rivals AC Milan on penalties in the final.
That game, as painful as it was, may be a factor in Buffon giving that extra 10% needed to stop the scariest front three in world football.
Added to this, at 37, Buffon will be well aware that this could be his last ever final for Juventus. No motivation needed then for the Italian legend.
4. The Manchester United Connection
Patrice Evra, Carlos Tevez, Paul Pogba and Gerard Pique will all have a part to play in the destination of this year’s Champions League trophy. Although Pique may be the one with less affinity to the Old trafford club, he has told the Daily Mail recently that being able to play under such big names when he was there was like earning a masters degree in terms of his development.
Three of Juventus’ most important players can claim to have developed in England’s north west too. Tevez will probably be most remembered for his stint in the blue half of Manchester but United provided him with the platform to perfect his finishing ability.
Evra found more of a legendary status than the others during the latter stages of Alex Ferguson’s reign. During his spell there, Evra won an incredible five Premier League titles, three League Cups, as well as the coveted Champions League. He will have a massive part to play if Juve are to defend against Barca’s incredible forward options.
Pogba came up through United’s youth set-up and is what now looks like a regretful free transfer away from the club. His performances in midfield this year have proved he is a talent for the future.
3. Luis Suarez & Patrice Evra Meet Again
Patrice Evra has claimed he will shake Luis Suarez’s hand before tonight’s game but in a scenario few would have predicted back when Evra refused to shake hands after Suarez was banned from the game for racially abusing the France international.
The two now meet playing for two different continental heavyweights. With Barca likely to play a front three of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Suarez, the Uruguay international may well be competing directly against Evra from time to time, adding an extra spice to proceedings.
2. Vying For The Treble
Both of these European giants are vying for the treble having already dominated domestically. Juve won the Serie A at a canter, or 17 points to be exact, ahead of their nearest competitor, Roma.
Barca didn’t quite have the same luxury during their league run-in, eventually winning the league by just two points. However, in a league where Barca and Real Madrid dominate more than anyone, proven by the fact no-one came near the pair in the league table, then this is hardly a comparable analysis and it shows that Luis Enrique’s men are made of something special.
It adds an extra element of motivation for these squads to know they can immortalise themselves in their club’s history, making this year’s final an even more important game than it usually is.
1. Xavi and Andrea Pirlo’s last hurrah
This game will be the end of an era for two midfield giants. In England, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have played their last Premier League games, but back on the continent, these two giants will feature in probably their last ever game at the top of European football.
Xavi is leaving to join Al Sadd in Qatar while Pirlo’s future remains a little more hazy going into tonight’s final.
Either way, we will never again see two of football’s most graceful players taking to the pitch for a Champions League final again.
Xavi will be vying for the 25th trophy of his incredible career while Pirlo will cement his place in history with a third Champions League title if his side wins.
This is going to be one of the key battles to focus on as two veterans of the game face-off.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
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