Why Juventus are Champions League favourites
Background photo: forzaq8, CC BY 2.0
It's a running joke in football. Play Juventus in the Champions League final and you're guaranteed to win. The Old Lady suffers more agony in Champions League and European Cup finals than any other club, most notably losing two of the last four finals. The Bianconeri are obsessed with winning the Big-Eared trophy this season. The Old Lady last won the tournament in 1996, but have reached finals in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2015 and 2017 only to lose each time. The Turin-based outfit possess all it takes to win the tournament this season, too, except a cure for hoodoo.
Scenes of Alessandro Del Piero crying profusely in ’97, ’98 and in ’03 at Old Trafford broke passionate Juventus fans' hearts. More recently, club legend Gigi Buffon left for PSG in a bid to win the only trophy missing from his cabinet. Can the Zebras change their stripes to win it this time? Here are four reasons why they can be all smiles at the Wanda Metropolitano come 2019.
It's about time
After 22 years, it feels like the stars are aligned for the Old Lady to win the tournament. They have reached the finals twice in the last four seasons, bettered on both occasions by the brilliance of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. There's a growing belief this campaign represents their last opportunity to win the coveted trophy with this generation of players.
Massimiliano Allegro fields one of the best squads in Europe. His bench is deep, too. Allegri can rest players in league play ahead of difficult matches in the Champions League. The fact that they have blown everybody in Serie A away reveals a new ruthlessness in the side, reminiscent of the Bayern team of 2013 that swept all before them in one of the most dominant seasons in European history.
The key players in Allegri's squad have all reached their 30th birthday, hence the notion their window is closing. While the boss added a mix of younger players offering pace and energy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Mandzukic, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi are all experienced campaigners beginning the downhill portion of their careers. There may be no better chance for them than this season.
Juventus stunned the world when they signed the Real Madrid legend. The 33-year-old Portuguese is perhaps the tournament's greatest player, having won it five times. His signing catapulted Juventus into the favourites tag after he helped Madrid win the tournament four times in the last five years, the greatest show of dominance for a team in the Champions League era.
While he has only scored twice in the competition so far, his record in the knockout stages is frightening. Juve’s opponents must consider how to stop him.
Lack of consistency elsewhere
Matches aren't won on paper but Juventus look the most desperate team for the title. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are in decline. PSG remain a work in progress, as do Manchester City. Barcelona rely too much on Lionel Messi and haven’t gone beyond the semifinals in the last three years.
All in all, Juventus should win the title. The smart money is on them come May. Perhaps the Old Lady will become young again.