Ultimately, though, the quest is the same as it has always been before this grand occasion. When you get here, when you stand on the doorstep, it is about finding one last performance to get you through the door.
On the face of it tonight, the greater challenge at Berlin’s iconic Olympiastadion belongs to the Italian champions from Turin. Their journey to Germany has been a surprising one.
‘I must admit I thought this would take two or three years,’ said Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
For Barcelona, however, expectation always sits heavy. Having won Europe’s blue riband competition twice in three years under Pep Guardiola in 2009 and 2011, the Catalan club threatened to take ownership of the trophy until their coach decided to take a time out.
Here tonight, after the relatively fallow years of the late Tito Vilanova and Gerardo Martino, coach Luis Enrique has the opportunity to underline the generally accepted feeling that Barcelona — the Barca of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar — are once again the greatest club side in the world. From that point of view, failure is not an option.
‘We have an amazing team,’ said Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. ‘We have one of the best teams in the history of our club. This game is something we have been working towards all season and we are not in the mood to fail now.’
A month ago, neutrals would perhaps have hoped for a Barcelona-Real Madrid final. Seeing el clasico as a roadshow certainly would have been something. In ending that story at the semi-final stage, however, Juventus showed that they will provide Barcelona with something more than a lesson in obduracy on what promises to be a stiflingly hot evening.
In the first leg in Turin in particular, Massimiliano Allegri’s team unsettled Real with their direct and energetic counter-attacking play. Carlos Tevez, who won and scored a penalty, appeared young again while Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio provided a midfield platform that will be fundamental if Juventus are to see enough of the ball in key areas this evening.
‘We will expect to have the ball and control possession and they will counter-attack,’ added Pique. ‘They have a lot of power up front and some good midfielders who are strong and go box to box.
‘They are an Italian team but they always want to play with the ball. They showed that against Madrid and will try and do the same to us.’
Sitting alongside Pique at last night’s Barcelona press conference was the Brazilian, Neymar. His verbal offerings were nothing like as expansive as his work on the field but he did cast the trophy a covetous glance as he walked into the room.
‘This is the most important match of my life,’ he said. ‘It has been a dream since I was a child to win this cup. Leo (Messi) and Luis (Suarez) are two extraordinary players and I am just lucky to play with them and learn from them.’
Juventus, it seems, know their place ahead of tonight but, equally, the role of underdog is not one that sits particularly well with the two-time winners of the competition.
‘We know we are one step below Barcelona but this is only one game so the difference is reduced,’ said defender Leonardo Bonucci.
‘We are not here to be sacrificial lambs or victims. Juventus have always had a reputation for great players, great champions, many trophies, and that makes us aware of what we have to live up to. This is a club that wins things.’
The first time Juventus won the European Cup, of course, was in 1985. Recently the club, along with Liverpool, marked the 30-year anniversary of a match — and a disaster — at Heysel Stadium that claimed 39 lives.
Yesterday coach Allegri and his players struck the appropriate tone. ‘It is very important,’ said Allegri. ‘Thirty years ago we saw a tragedy which is going to stay with us and has gone down in the history of football. So I think for Juventus, for Italian fans and for world football, this year is a year to be remembered. Most importantly, we have to think about the families of the victims.’
On the field tonight, Allegri will miss his defensive rock Giorgio Chiellini, absent with a calf injury. That at least saves us from the sideshow of a reunion with his World Cup assailant, Suarez. There is, of course, still the prospect of Suarez’s reunion with Juventus’s former Manchester United left back Patrice Evra to think about.
It is to be hoped that storyline does not break the surface of what could be an absorbing game. The Olympiastadion is a venue worthy of a classic and we could get one.– Daily Mail
Original source: Failure not an option for Barca