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Match analysis: Juventus - Barcelona (Champions League Final)

Match analysis: Juventus – Barcelona

By Athanasios Terzis and Michail Tsokaktsidis


By Athanasios Terzis

Combination play on the left and Messi’s quality lead Barcelona to the Champions League tittle

The Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona was exiting. Barcelona started excellently and scored in the first minutes but Juventus reacted and after scoring the equalizer they were better. However when things went wrong for Barca Messi’s star shined again. The Argentine gave once again the solution and Enrique’s team won the title.



1st Half: Barcelona started by scoring and despite dominating and creating chances failed to score again

Barcelona started with 4-3-3 and the usual first eleven.  Mascherano was next to Pique while Alves and Alba were on the right and left respectively. Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic were the three midfielders and Messi together with Neymar and Suarez the three forwards.

Attacking phase: Right from the beginning Barca managed to score after a combination play on the left. As it was already mentioned in the pregame analysis, Barcelona relied a lot on the combination play on the left between Neymar, Alba and Iniesta.

Specifically after Messi’s pass towards Alba who was the one that created width, Neymar received the ball. Barzagli was forced to move away from his zone of responsibility in order to close down the man in possession. This reaction created a gap behind him. Pirlo instead of filling this gap decided to move towards Messi who was just outside the box. So Iniesta exploited the space, received the ball from Neymar and passed it to Rakitic who scored an easy goal. 


After this Barcelona dominated by retaining high percentages of possession and threatened to score a second, despite Juventus attempt to press high. Enrique’s team managed to break through the pressure by moving the ball quickly towards the fullbacks who had some time on the ball before the opposing side midfielders could close them down (due to the lack of width of the 4-3-1-2 formation). Then the fullbacks searched for the pass towards the free midfielder in the centre. 


In cases that the opposing side midfielders Marchisio and Pogba were close enough to the fullbacks, Barca attacking midfielders (Iniesta and Rakitic) moved towards the side line and created numbers up within the opposing fullback’s zone of responsibility. This shifting enabled them to receive unmarked.


Certainly there were times that Juventus pressed effectively and won possession high but in most of the occasions Barca managed to deal with it successfully.  

Juventus during defensive phase switched from 4-3-1-2 to 4-4-2 in order to control the width better and prevent Barca players from creating numbers up on the flanks. However in some cases Vidal didn’t drop back close to Pirlo on time and Marchisio had to stay more centrally. This didn’t enable him to provide quickly support to Licht/ner and Barcelona took advantage of it.   

On the other hand the Catalans during retaining possession tried to read the positioning of the opposition players and searched for the second goal. Most of the attacking moves started from Messi who received on the right and used driving runs towards the inside. Then the Argentine passed towards the left side where Neymar and Alba moved in synchronization.  

Specifically Barcelona took advantage of Evra’s advanced positioning in his attempt to close down Messi. This action created space behind him which Rakitic tried to exploit by moving diagonally. The movement by Rakitic forced the three defenders of Juve to shift towards the strong side. This reaction created space on the weak side for Neymar or Alba. In these cases Messi passed the ball quickly towards the weak side.      


In cases that one of Juve midfielders was on Messi and the defence was balanced, Neymar and Alba moved in synchronization to take advantage of Marchisio’s late reaction. Specifically Neymar dropped back to provide a passing option and Alba at the same time moved forward. This created a problem for Licht/ner who was in a dilemma whether to follow Neymar or not. As Marchisio most of the occasions didn’t track Alba on time the right fullback of Juve left Neymar to receive unmarked. 


In cases that Marcisio followed Alba, Licht/ner also followed Neymar and Messi’s pass was directed to Alba.


Defensive phase: During defensive phase in order for Barcelona to restrict Pirlo’s available space and time with the ball they switched to a formation which looked like a flat 4-4-2. Busquets move forward along in the same line with Iniesta and Rakitic, while at the same time Neymar dropped back to control Licht/ner and Rakitic shifted towards the right. The Croatian had two players within his zone of responsibility Pogba and Evra.   


This switch resulted a 4 v 3 at the back and forced the fullbacks to stay in deep positions (as mentioned in the pregame analysis) in order to provide help to the central defenders and retain numbers up.

Barcelona tried to apply pressing high to prevent the Italians from building up from the back. This tactical approach was successful when Pirlo was in high position and Busquets was able to close him down quickly. However in cases that Juventus defensive midfielder was in deep position the Catalans faced problems.

Specifically either Pirlo could receive a direct pass from Buffon and as he had some time on the ball before Busquets put pressure on him, he could start the build up,


or Suarez dropped back to prevent the direct pass towards him. In this case Neymar moved close to Barzagli and Licht/ner was left free of marking. In cases that the ball was moved to Licht/ner the left fullback of Juve had time on the ball as Alba was unable to move in advanced position to put him under pressure in order not to create a 3 v 3 situation at the back and leave available space behind his back for Morata.  


Negative transition: Barcelona was effective during negative transition and except for few cases, they prevented Juve from hitting on the counter. Their intension was to win possession immediately after losing it, while at the same time they tried to retain safety and balance at the back, during the attacking phase, by having an extra player. Busquets was the key as he read the game and covered for the simultaneous advanced positions of both fullbacks by staying close to Pique and Mascherano (3 v 2).


In cases that only one of the fullbacks was in advanced position, Busquets stayed high as the numerical superiority was already ensured.


Positive transition: As regards positive transition, despite the fact that Juve didn’t leave available spaces for Barca to exploit, the Catalans managed in couple of cases to move quickly from negative to positive transition and create scoring chances. Most characteristic of all was Alves’ shot within the box that Buffon managed block.   

Barcelona was the better team during the first half as they not only dominated possession but also managed to take advantage of this in order to create scoring chances. Juve on the other hand had a couple of good chances too.             


2nd Half: Barcelona started by creating chances but Juve was the one that scored and then dominated before Messi take action

The second half started with Juve trying to press high. This tactical approach left available spaces for Barca and the Catalans tried to hit on the counter. They were close to score the second as they missed a couple of scoring chances (the more significant the one from Suarez after a corner kick from Juventus).

However the team that took advantage of the positive transition was Juventus. Licht/ner received the pass from Marchisio, moved forward with the ball and took the cross for Tevez. The Argentine turned and made the shot. Ter Stegen made the save but Morata was close enough to receive the deflection and score. From then and on Juventus gain confidence and dominated for about 15 minutes, while Barcelona seemed to have lost their concentration. The main reason for Juve’s domination was the fact that Pirlo find more time on the ball and could dictate the tempo while at the same time Barca struggled to press high. The Italians missed a couple of chances to make it 2-1 before Messi takes action.

Juventus were more overenthusiastic than they should have been and left available spaces for Barca at the back. So despite their domination Barcelona was the team that scored the second. Messi received the ball near the half way line and after making a driving run up to the edge of the box he took a shot on goal. Buffon made the save and Suarez in a similar to Morata’s situation he gave the lead for Barca.  

Juventus tried to react by pressing higher and the tempo was altered. Barcelona again found available spaces while Juve had their moments to score the equalizer (combination play by Llorente – Pogba – Pereyra, shots by Marchisio and Tevez). Neymar’s goal scored in the final minute ended an exciting game until the very last moment.  


Conclusion: Barcelona was the better team during the final and they deservedly won the tittle despite the fact that once again the stars of Messi (mainly) Neymar and Suarez had to shine. Juventus performed well and had their moments in the game especially for 15 minutes after scoring the equalizer. If they had deal with this period more wisely, maybe the result was different.         





By Michail Tsokaktsidis

1st Half

Allegri started as expected by using the 4-3-1-2 formation and with Barzagli in, instead for the injured Chiellini. Bonucci was the left central defender and Barzagli the right one. Evra was on the left and Lichtsteiner on the right. Pirlo was the defensive midfielder while Pogba was on his left and Marchisio on his right. Vidal was the attacking midfielder and Morata with Tevez the two forwards.


Juventus started by pressing high in order to prevent Barca from building up easily from the back and force them to careless passes. Their aim was to win possession high and counter immediately by using the speed of their forwards hoping to find Barca unbalanced. 


The two forwards tried to force Pique and Mascherano towards the inside where Juve retained numbers up (4 v 3). Vidal moved close to Busquets, while the two side midfielders were in balanced positions and shifted according to where the ball was directed. So in case that the ball was passed to Alba, Marchisio moved to close him down while Pirlo and Pogba moved close to Iniesta and Rakitic respectively.  


This seemed to trouble Barca in the first minutes as they made a couple of mistakes. However the early goal scored by the Catalans had great influence in the game.

As we had mentioned in the pregame analysis, the 89% of Barcelona’s goals were scored within the penalty area. One of the key elements for Juventus would have been the prevention of Enrique’s team from entering easily their box as Barca players don’t score by shooting or after crossing from outside of the penalty area.

However Juventus conceded a goal which was scored rather easily and that they should have avoided. Specifically there was lack of coverage due to poor positioning of the defenders and this gave Iniesta the chance to move forward by using a vertical movement behind the three defenders. This movement in conjunction with Pirlo’s shifting towards the edge of the box, enabled Iniesta to receive the ball from Neymar and pass it to Rakitic. 


Despite the early goal, the aims for Juventus remained the same and in the following minutes they tried to exploit the 2 v 2 situation in the centre of Barcelona’s defence with Morata and Tevez against Mascherano and Pique either in the phase of positive transition or in the attacking phase. 

The most characteristic situation was the one in 8th minute when Morata and Tevez were against Mascherano and Pique. The attacking move ended with Vidal’s forward run from deep position and the shot by the Chilean that went just a few yards away from the bar.


Juventus started the building up from back, despite the fact that Barca pressed high. Marchisio moved towards the inside and close to Pirlo more than usual in order to provide an extra passing option and safety if possession was lost.  

In the defensive phase Juve switched to a flat 4-4-2 when they defended deep, as Vidal dropped back close to Pirlo, while Morata and Tevez also dropped close to the midfielders to restrict the available space for Barcelona. However the two forwards defended mainly in a passive way.


In order to deal with MessiAllegri instructed Pogba to put pressure on him immediately and prevent him from turning towards Juvegoal. Evra provided cover from behind and Pirlo or Vidal tried to block the Argentine’s diagonal movement towards the inside. This forced Messi mainly to horizontal movements.


In cases that Evra was on Messi, Pogba moved behind him to provide support.  


During Messi’s moving towards the inside, either Pirlo or Vidal moved to put pressure on him while the other three midfielders were in covering positions. 


Until the 20th minute it was obvious that Barca were the better team as they could have scored a second by exploiting the weaknesses of the Italian team.   

The most characteristic situations were Neymar’s attempt by driving the ball towards the inside which ended with a shot in 9th minute, Messi’s pass towards Neymar behind Juventus defenders


as well as the combination play between Messi, Suarez and Alves and the shot from the Brazilian in 14th minute.

Barcelona could also have exploited the poor positioning and the bad reactions from Juve players during the corner kick from Rakitic and the shot by Alba in 16th minute. 


After this period Juventus improved defensively and tried to hit on the counter. This was done either after winning the ball within their defensive half, as they did when Mascherano made the tackle and blocked the pass from Pogba towards Tevez


or after they won possession higher like they did: a) in the situation that ended with the shot by Morata in 24th minute, b) the one with the shot by Marchisio (25th minute) and finally c) the one that ended with Alba’s challenge on Pogba just outside the box (35th minute).

Additionally Juve tried to improve during the attacking phase. That’s why Vidal shifted towards the side lines to create an extra problem to the fullbacks Alba and Alves. This shifting also kept the two forwards Tevez and Morata in central positions. 


In cases that Vidal and Tevez had wide positions, Pogba moved forward between the lines and close to Morata.  


In 29th minute and for about 7-8 minutes Marchisio and Pogba switched positions, while Barca threatened again (from the 20th minute) after an individual action and a shot from Suarez in the 39th minute.  

During the first half Juventus were well organized during negative transition and didn’t face significant problems. This was due to the balance Marchisio and Pirlo provided in midfield. Barca threatened only twice during positive transition, in 40th minute after Iniesta’s interception and the combination play between Suarez, Neymar and Messi which ended with Suarez’s shot on goal as well as after Neymar’s interception in Buffon’s pass and the cross towards Suarez.


2nd Half

In the beginning of the 2nd half Juventus tried to be more active and switched to 4-3-1-2 during the defensive phase. 



However this tactical approach created problems as Barca players exploited the width and moved the ball from side to side in order to search for the right moment to move forward and threaten Buffon, like they did in 49th minute with the shot by Suarez and the quick combination play by Messi-Neymar & Messi-Suarez in 51st minute.

The first minutes in the second half showed that Juve would face problems on the counter as they left available spaces, like they did in 48th minute when Barca after a corner kick exploited the space during positive transition. A 5 v 3 was created and ended with a great scoring chance missed by Suarez. 


Despite this fact Juventus managed to score the equalizer in 55th minute in a positive transition situation. This goal gave Juve more confidence and they dominated for the next 12-13 minutes. During this period the Italians showed energy and they took advantage of the extra player in midfield in order to attack through the centre. They also created a couple scoring chances but failed to score.  

Juventus were higher in the field in this period and as the tempo was altered Barcelona’s forwards and especially Messi took advantage of it. Specifically Juve defended high but the Catalans broke through the pressure. Rakitic passed to Messi with plenty of available space. The Italians seemed to have more players than Barca had in this part of the field, but Messi with available space in front is always a danger. The Argentine made the driving run, reached the edge of the box and took the shot. Suarez had an easy job to do after the save from Buffon in a crucial period of the game. 


From then and on the form of game favored Barcelona as the Catalans pressed high and Juve players were forced to several mistakes. 




Barcelona was very dangerous in positive transition.


During this period Juve tried to score mainly from set pieces. Allegri brought in Pereyra for Vidal in 79th and Llorente for Morata in 84th in order to move the ball around and in the box without changing the formation. Llorente helped Juve and the Italians created three scoring chances (Pereyra, Tevez, Pogba). However Neymar’s late goal in positive transition ended the game.

Conclusion: The better team not only during the final but also during the tournament won the title.Luis Enrique managed to create a Barcelona with a different style of play but equally effective compared to the one of Guardiola, despite the fact that 7-8 players out of 11 were the same. 



Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 June 2015 20:13

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