After incredible Champions League comeback, Barcelona faces stern Juventus test

Friday March 17th, 2017

Barcelona was a comfortable 3-1 winner over Juventus in the 2015 Champions League final, but since then Barcelona has weakened and Juventus has improved.

The comeback in the last 16 against Paris Saint-Germain was stunning, but it can’t be forgotten that the only reason it was necessary was that Barcelona had been hammered 4-0 in the first leg, when its lack of energy and the tendency of the front three to become isolated was clear. A change of shape to 3-4-3 has eliminated the problems at fullback by, well, eliminating the fullbacks, but it’s not a shape that seems to get the best out of Lionel Messi. Dramatic as those three goals in seven minutes were, they have not resolved the long-term structural problems. Sergio Busquets will be suspended for the first leg.

Juventus, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength, unbeaten at home all season and the only side not to concede a goal in the last 16. The question of how battle-hardened it is given the relative ease with which it is winning Serie A is a fair one, but this is an experienced squad with plenty of depth, probably the best Juventus side in over a decade.

Before the 2015 final, the sides had met only twice before in the Champions League: Barcelona came out on top in 1985-86, while Juventus won in 2002-03 (both victorious teams went on to draw the final 0-0 and lose on penalties).

PREDICTION: Juventus

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