The Old Lady’s Time to Eat

The Old Lady’s Time to Eat

03 Jun 2017, 17:00

In the 1998 UEFA Champions League final, Juventus became the first team in Champions League history to lose consecutive finals following a 1-0 loss to Real Madrid. Juventus were amidst another ‘cycle’ of accumulating domestic and continental honours as they appeared in a European final for the fourth successive season under coach Marcello Lippi.

This sense of disappointment was evident in the national newspapers the following morning with “Juventus, Where Were You,” the front-page headline in Corriere Dello Sport and La Repubblica wrote “Juventus, What a Disappointment.”

The current Real Madrid boss, Zinedine Zidane, was part of that Juventus team.

The football landscape of May 20, 1998 was very different to the one we find ourselves in today. However, some things never change. Juventus and Real Madrid remain at the top of the game, competing for European football's biggest prize nearly two decades on.

Juventus and Real Madrid are on the spotlight again. This time however, Juventus are more likely to get their cake after all those years. Alot is at stake for the Old Lady.

Buffon’s legacy

Gianluigi Buffon is the oldest player in Juventus. Buffon, 39, is aiming to win Europe’s top club competition for the first time when Juve face Real Madrid C.F. Gianluigi Buffon could become the oldest winner of the UEFA Champions League if Juventus overcome Real Madrid in Cardiff on 3 June.

The Italian goalkeeper and Juventus captain is already the fifth oldest player to appear in the match, having featured in the side’s 3-1 defeat by Barcelona in 2015, aged 37 years, 129 days. However, Buffon – who will be 39 years, 126 days old on the day of the final – can surpass another Italian great, Maldini, should he captain Juve to glory at the National Stadium of Wales.

Regardless of the outcome in Cardiff, Buffon will become the second oldest player to figure in a UEFA Champions League final, a record currently held by Edwin van der Sar, who was aged 40 years, 211 days in Manchester United's 2011 loss to Barcelona.

Most balanced squad

In Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus has a world-class, commanding central defensive partnership which is bolstered by the presence of Buffon in goal and flanked by full-backs Dani Alves and Alex Sandro. Andrea Barzagli and Juan Cuadrado have also played vital roles whenever called upon during Juve’s run this season, providing their manager with the flexibility to tweak formations as required against different opponents.

The Italians can command the centre of the pitch with midfielders like Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira, a defensive forward in Mario Mandukic, and the wings with the help of their full-backs. Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, form a threatening spearhead in attack, making the most of their chances to score.

The tactical master-class of Allegri

Allegri took over from the exceptional Antonio Conte in the summer of 2014 and could have crumbled under the weight of expectations at the Turin-based side. However, he delivered in style with a double in his debut season in charge as Juventus romped home to their fourth league title while also grabbing the Coppa Italia.

During the course of his stint at Juve, Allegri has masterminded his side going from strength to strength across the pitch. His transfers have been astute, to say the least; Higuain has provided the Old Lady with firepower, Pjanic provides comfort in midfield taking over from Andrea Pirlo and Dani Alves has been a revelation in the backline and on the wings.

The Italian coach has proved The Italian coach has also provided ample evidence of his ability to adapt, by tweaking formations and rotating players. While a traditional back four was employed against Barca, Allegri resorted to a three-man defence against Monaco; this choked the French attack while his side stayed compact and found joy on the wings.His reading of the game, opponents and their style of play has been spot on and the tactical changes have immensely benefited his charges. His stock has been rising highly (quite deservedly too) across Europe; a Champions league trophy would propel it further up.

An incredible attack

The Argentine duo of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala may not always run riot but have the ability to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them.

Higuain has scored 23 goals in the Serie A this season and Dybala nine, taking the Bianconeri to the threshold of their sixth successive league title. With 32 goals between them, the two account for nearly 50% of Juventus’ 70 goals in the league.

Their CL record is as impressive, with nine goals between them of a total 19 scored by Juve in the competition.

Impregnable defence

Juventus have the meanest defence of the four semi-finalists in the competition. The Bianconeri have kept played 11 games in the UCL this season and kept clean sheets in 9 of those, with only Lyon and Sevilla managing to breach the fortress once each.

Since November 2016, the Italians have kept six straight clean sheets conceding goals at a miserly rate of 0.18 per game (compared to 0.73 for Atletico, 1.36 for Real Madrid and 1.64 for AS Monaco).

The game could be either a high intensity game or a bus-parking game but either way, this will definitely be the Old Lady’s turn to eat.

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