All is now set for the biggest game of the season, the 60th of Europe’s apex competition and the 23rd season since it was renamed from the European Champions Club’s cup to the UEFA Champions League, holding at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Saturday evening between the Old lady, Juventus and Blaugrana, FC Barcelona. The two heavy weights will do battle for La Orejona—the trophy nicknamed “the big ears” in Spanish because of the shape of its handle. Who will go home with Europe’s biggest price and be crowned 2015 champions of Europe?
On Saturday night in Berlin, the best of the best will display their propensities before the mammoth crowd that will seat in the sold out 74,475-capacity Olympiastadion, while millions more will be enjoying the action from their TV sets around the world. If there is one game that can define careers and destinies of players and coaches, this is the one.
There is no going back now and no time for elaborate build-ups; come 7:45 P.M., British time , the stage will be cleared and it’s only a matter of time before we will see those whose eyes will be dripping with tears of joy while cackling their delight in the ecstasy of triumph. The time would soon be ripe for us to see those who will lament in hush agony and bemoan their bad luck and the cruelty of fate on them—it is only a matter of time.
All eyes are now focused on the fledging career of two promising coaches—Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Will Luis Enrique join the ranks of young successful coaches like Josep Guardiola and Frank Rijkaard and add icing on the cake in a season where he had already won the La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with the attacking machinery of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (MSN)? Will he achieve the feat of winning the treble in his first season in charge and even pave the way to collect more trophies like the Super Cup and The World Club Cup?
Massimiliano Allegri, Juve’s boss, is also having the time of his life, winning the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia. He would fancy his chances to lead the Old Lady of Turin to the Champions League final after 12 years of absence at the biggest stage. Remarkably, he has been able to instill the Old Lady with some grit reminiscent of what we used to know of Italian football. That enabled Juventus knock off the champions Real Madrid in a closely contested two-legged game with former homeboy – Álvaro Morata proving to be the nemesis of Los Blancos and their albatross to a lustful agenda of conquering Europe for the eleventh time. Juventus will seek to win the Champions League for the third time in their eighth Champions League final.
In the ranks of the Juventus players is a caustic blend of youth and experience—players who have graced games of this magnitude time after time—Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez, Patrice Evra . When it comes to adding youthful verve—they would be relying on the indefatigable Paul Pogba, the ruthless Álvaro Morata and the assiduous Arturo Vidal amongst the rest of the pack. There’s every reason to keep faith with this Juventus outfit.
To emerge on the victor’s podium tomorrow, the Italians would have to trust the Catenaccio – the vintage Italian tactics. They will need to deprive the adroit Barcelona players of space— and though a daunting feat, how well they do this would determine their success at the end of the game.
While I have enumerated what Juventus must do to pop more champagne tomorrow when referee Cüneyt Çakır from Turkey blows the final whistle, no one needs to be told who the clear favorites are. Barcelona has enjoyed one of the finest decades in their rich history and has won 3 Champions League final among an avalanche of trophies. More so, when you have arguably the best football player ever on your side, you have every reason to be confident, and winning trophies become your right. In Berlin tomorrow, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi, the modest size Argentinian and record four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner who needs no extra incentive to perform at such grandiose occasion. He would be expected to make endless runs, nutmegs and a series of defence-splitting passes. It would also not be a surprise if he ends up on the scoring sheet and clinch the golden boot; after all he’s found the net in the last two finals of 2009 and 2011 against Manchester United. The Blaugrana also boast of the Brazilian poster boy—Neymar Jr. and the biting Uruguayan danger man, Luis Suarez. One only hopes that the latter would keep his teeth in check at least now that Giorgio Chiellini would not be playing due to injury.
Soccer fans like me all over the world will be having night pangs and even those who don’t care much are drooling as they await the Champions League anthem filter the air while the players jump out of the dugout and shake out whatever tension that is still harbored in their system. We hope the final lives up to its billing and that it would be one we would remember for years to come.
O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.