Friday, June 2, 2017

UCL final 2017 - Juventus on the cusp of greatness

I've gone against Real Madrid the last 2 times they won the UCL final and both times they lifted the cup. However, I am more confident in the chances of Juventus, their opponents this year, than I was with Atletico Madrid, their city rivals they beat on both occasions.

Juventus has simply crushed Serie A for the past years. No team comes close to them. They started their dynasty with Pogba and Vidal and although these have left for richer pastures, the team has remained dominant in Italy. Super coach Conte has gone but newcomer Allegri has done an equally remarkable job to maintain their domestic supremacy. Europe is something they have not conquered during that period and it would be the icing on top for this team.

It is well documented that the Italians, however traditionally dominant at home, have a relatively poor record in the European Cup. Only 2 wins out of 8 finals is a stigma they desperately wish to erase. Contrast that to rivals Real Madrid which are going for their 12th win in the competition. But the past is the past and there are strong reasons to believe that this might be the year of the Old Lady. Their defence is their biggest strength. Ask Messi and the full-powered Barcelona which were brushed aside without scoring a scoring goal in the quarter finals. Ask the young Monaco team, re-known for their attacking flair and dynamic, which could only find the net once against the vaunted Italian defence. This is a very balanced team with workhorses like Marchisio and Khedira supporting the talented cast of Dybala, Higuain and Mandzukic upfront. There is no superstar they have to rely on, the whole is bigger than sum of the parts, where each part fits into a system devised by an astute manager. This is a big contrast to Real Madrid.

The Los Blancos rely on one man, Ronaldo. Take him out of the equation on a match of this significance and this team will struggle to find goals. Except maybe Ramos, their captain superlative that has been getting well-timed goals out of nowhere in their past finals.  The Whites are full of talent but they are not a balanced team. They will struggle to open up the organized and defensively-minded Italians. However, with goal-thirsty Ronaldo, they cannot be dismissed in any match.

It seems to me that the time of the Italians has come. Time for Juventus to confirm their supremacy in Europe, beyond Serie A. Time for Buffon to finally lift the coveted cup, the only one missing from his glorious resume. Time for a team other than Real or Barcelona, other than Messi or Ronaldo, to win the UCL final.

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