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Pregame analysis: Juventus - Barcelona (Champions League final)

Pregame analysis: Juventus - Barcelona

Champions League final

By Athanasios Terzis and Michail Tsokaktsidis

The two teams after being domestic champions and cup winners are competing for achieving the treble in Berlin’s Champions League final.


By Michail Tsokaktsidis

After winning both the domestic championship and the cup Juventus will face Barcelona in the Champions League final in an attempt to achieve the treble. During the season Allegri used mainly two formations, the 4-3-1-2 (or diamond 4-4-2) and the 3-5-2. These formations were used according to the characteristics of the opposing team and there were many times that there was a switch from the one to the other during the same game.

As Barcelona will use the 4-3-3 with Busquets, Rakitic and Iniesta in midfield and having in mind that the characteristic of the team is the speed and the quality in combination play on the flanks (Alves and Messi on the right, J. Alba and Neymar on the left), it is very likely that Allegri will start with a 4-3-1-2 formation. This will create numbers up for Juve in midfield with 4 v 3. Furthermore Allegri will try to take advantage of the 2 v 2 situation in the centre of defence as Morata and Tevez will be against Pique and Mascherano (4 v 3 + 2 v 2).


From what we have seen so far from Juve, mainly in Champions League matches the main aims of the Italian team will be:

Defensive phase

1) The direct attacks through the centre using vertical passes and the exploitation of the space behind the fullbacks as there will be a 2 v 2 situation in the centre of Barca’s defence.  


2) The quick combination play through the centre with the contribution of the forwards (Tevez and Morata) and the midfielders (mainly Vidal and Pogba) with the aim of creating numbers up outside the box, while at the same Pirlo and Marchisio provide balance in midfield.

Juventus can attack in three ways. 

a) When the ball is passed to Morata, Tevez makes a dropping back movement to get free of marking and receive the back pass. Then he can play with Pogba, Vidal and Morata who move towards the available spaces.


b) When the ball is passed to Tevez, Vidal moves immediately to a supporting position to receive the back pass and search for the final pass.


c) Tevez drops back and gets free of marking in order to receive between the lines and turn towards the opposition’s goal. Then the aim is the killer pass towards Pogba, Vidal and Morata.


3) In cases that all the above cannot be carried out, Juve will try to control the tempo by retaining possession at the back as Bonucci and Barzagli will have to deal with Suarez (2 v 1) and then they will try to take advantage of the 4 v 3 in midfield. Juve will search for the right choice according to Barca’s defensive reaction. It is possible that Vidal will shift horizontally towards the side lines to provide passing options and to create an extra problem to Alves and J. Alba


In cases that Marchisio creates width, Vidal will drop back close to Pirlo and Tevez will drop also back towards the space created by Vidal in order to provide a passing option and retain the 4 v 3 in midfield.

Juventus will try to control the tempo and then they will try obtain a quick vertical pass in order to use one of the attacking combinations shown. Alternatively when the ball has being moved towards a player near the side line (e.g. Lichsteiner or Marchisio or Vidal) and Alves moves in advanced position, Juve players will attempt to exploit the space behind him by passing to one of the forwards, while at the same time the rest players enter the box.


It is for sure that Allegri will instruct his players to retain balance, keep a slow tempo and avoid being exposed in the open space during negative transition.


During defensive phase in order for Juve to avoid being outnumbered on the flanks and to deal better with the attacking minded fullbacks Alves and J.Alba, the main aim will be the creation of a strong side. By this way the available spaces will be restricted, Messi and Neymar will be prevented from receiving easily the ball and the switch of play will be a difficult job for Barca players.  


If Juventus manage to deal successfully with the situation it is very likely to win possession and try to counter against an unbalanced defence.

In case that the Catalans achieve a switch of play, Vidal will drop back in order to fill the potential gaps and the formation will be immediately switched to 4-4-2 with the midfielders along in the same line. Furthermore the two forwards will drop also back to restrict the space between the lines.    


It is for sure that all Barca players can score, however during the champions league matches, 25 of 28 Barcelona’s goals have been scored by the three forwards. Additionally except for the forwards only Rakitic has scored in the matches from the last stage of 16th and on.   

Another important clue is the fact that 89% of goals have been scored within the penalty area and only 3 of them after a header.

Having all these in mind the key for the Italians will be the prevention of Barca players from moving the ball behind the defenders’ back and from entering the box either through an individual action (Messi, Neymar) or through combination play. Additionally they will try to block them around and outside of the penalty area.

Enrique’s team will rely mainly on positional play and on the individual quality of the three forwards, so probably Allegri will try to double or triple mark them in order to prevent Messi and Neymar from making driving runs with the ball towards the inside. His aim will be to force them towards the outside and to cross the ball with their weak foot. 


In case that the result is in favor of Juventus it is very likely that there will be a switch to 3-5-2 (despite the fact that Chiellini’s loss is a serious one) and the defensive pressure will be applied deeper in the field. 



1) Taking advantage of the numbers up in midfield which can lead to:

  • Quickandeffectiveattacking
  • Controlling the tempo of the game and to attacks in the right time and towards the right space (e.g. behind Alves and J. Alba)

2) Retaining balance (especially during the negative transition) and avoid being exposed on the counter.

3) Preventing the opposition from breaking through the defence and from entering the box as they don’t score easily by shooting outside the box or by crossing.

4) Taking advantage of the set pieces

Conclusion: Juventus are not the favorites for winning the match, but everyone admits that during all matches from the stage of the last 16th and on they were prepared better to deal with different tactical situations than their opponents. This preparation lead them finding solutions against teams with different characteristics such as Dortmund (good in pressing high, in quick combination play and fast transitions), Monaco (with a very compact formation and good in counterattacking) and finally against the top quality defending champions Real Madrid.


By Athanasios Terzis

Barcelona’s selection for the first eleven as well as for the formation chosen won’t probably surprise anyone. Enrique will start with 4-3-3. Ter Stegen will be the GK, Pique, Marcherano, Alves and Alba the four defenders, Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic in midfield and Neymar, Messi and Suarez will be the three forwards.

Attacking phase

During the attacking phase Barcelona will try to control the tempo by passing the ball around and dominating possession. During retaining possession the Catalans have the ability to recognize the weaknesses of the opposition and act accordingly in order to break through the defensive organization.

Combination play on the left: In the latest matches they have shown that they rely a lot on the combination play between Alba, Iniesta and Neymar on the left with the aim of exploiting the space behind the opposing fullback. This can be done through the interlapping runs of Alba after passing to Neymar who is the one that creates width.


Another option is the diagonal runs of Iniesta towards this space with the aim of receiving Neymar’s pass.


Finally when Alba is the one who creates width, the space behind the fullback (that is created by the dropping back of Neymar) is exploited by the overlapping runs of Barcelona left fullback.


Exploiting the high defensive line through the runs of the fullbacks or the attacking midfielders: It is very likely that Juventus will try to defend within the middle third or deeper. During defending they will attempt to restrict the available space between the lines by retaining a compact formation and by keeping a high defensive line. Barcelona against teams that used this strategy used well timed runs from players starting from deep positions, such as the fullbacks or the attacking midfielders. These players took advantage of the driving runs of Messi, Neymar and sometime Iniesta towards the inside and their ability in making quality final passes. 



Exploiting the high defensive line through the well timed runs of the forwards: Barcelona also showed that the high defensive line can be exploited through the well timed runs of the forwards, who stayed onside and at the right moment made the runs to take advantage of Messi’s ability to make the killer pass. 



Individual quality: Barcelona’s three forwards as well as Iniesta are players who can determine the outcome of the match. There were several matches that the opposition’s defense was broken through an individual action by these four players.

Defensive phase

Barcelona during the defensive phase will try to prevent the opposition from building up from the back and win the ball as soon as possible by applying pressure high up the field. This will probably force the opposition to long inaccurate balls and the defenders will be able not only to neutralize them but also to start a new attack.

Defending against the 4-3-1-2 of diamond 4-4-2: One of Juventus most used formations during this season is the 4-3-1-2 (diamond 4-4-2). Barcelona dealt with this formation when they played against Bayern Munich.

During the match up against 4-3-1-2, a 4 v 2 situation is created at the back for Barca while Juventus retain a 4 v 3 advantage in midfield and in their defensive part of the field. The problem for Barcelona in order to prevent Juve from building up from the back will be the marking of the free player Pirlo. 


To close down Pirlo, Barca will probably switch to a flat 4-4-2 formation during the defensive phase. Busquets will step up along in the same line with Iniesta and Rakitic, while Neymar will drop back. This reaction will decrease the distance of Busquets from Pirlo and the defensive midfielder of Barca will be able to restrict the available time and space for him. As Vidal will be positioned behind Busquets, he will be able to move forward and create a 4 v 3 situation or drop back in midfield to create a 4 v 4.


As Busquets’ advanced position won’t enable him to provide support to the defenders immediately, both Barca fullbacks will be positioned in lower positions in order to retain numerical superiority (4 v 3) when Vidal will be high.


In case that Vidal is low at least one fullback will be back to maintain a 3 v 2 against the two Juve forwards. 


Additionally as Rakitic will be positioned towards the side line it will be easier for him to track Evra’s forward runs as Messi will probably stay high.

Defending against the 3-5-2: In case that Juventus use the 3-5-2 formation (due to Chiellini’s injury it is unlikely), there will be a 4 v 2 situation at the back of Barca, a 3 v 3 in midfield and a 3 v 2 at the back of Juventus. Busquets will move forward along in the same line with the other midfielders in order to be close to Pirlo while Neymar will drop back in order to keep an eye on Licht/ner. The free player for Juve will be the left wing back Evra. His marking will be taken over either by Rakitic, who will shift towards the side line (if Evra is low) or Alves (if Evra is high). This reaction won’t affect the retaining of the numbers up at the back for Barca as it will be switched to 3 v 2.      


Defending against the 4-4-2: In case that Juventus use the 4-4-2 formation, as they did against Real Madrid, there will be a 4 v 2 situation at the back of Barca, a 2 v 2 in midfield and a 3 v 4 at the back of Juventus. The two side midfielders of Juve will be able to change the numerical situations by moving high or deeper in the field, while at the same time Busquets will be the key player for Barca in order to retain safety and balance at the back. 


In case that both Barca fullbacks are in advanced positions close to Juve side midfielders, Busquets will be positioned close to the central defenders to able to provide help and prevent the 2 v 2 in the middle 


In case that both side midfielders of Juve are in advanced positions, the defensive midfielder of Barcelona will drop back close to the central defenders to create a 5 v 4 situation.  


The closing down of Evra will be done either by the shifting of Rakitic towards the side line 


or by the moving forward of Alves and the synchronized shifting of Pique together with the dropping back of Busquets.



Barcelona will try to be effective during the negative transition and win the ball back immediately after losing possession. By this way they will be able to dominate possession and control the tempo. Furthermore they will try to maintain safety at the back by retaining an extra player against the two Juve forwards. This will be done either by the contribution of the fullback of the weak side or by the dropping back of Busquets.

As regards the positive transition, it is for sure that if Messi, Neymar and Suarez find available spaces on the counter, they are very capable in winning duels and making quality final passes as they did in the first legs against PSG and Bayern.

Last Updated on Saturday, 06 June 2015 17:09

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