Barca boss expects midfield battle to be decisive factor
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says it is all very well having the lethal attacking talents of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez but it will count for little if his midfielders lose the battle with their Juventus countertparts in Saturday’s Champions League final against Juventus.
Barca’s star-studded attack of Messi, Neymar and Suarez have amassed 120 goals between them this season and will be eager to crown their wonderful season by adding to their record tally at Berlin’s magnificent Olympic Stadium with a capacity crowd of 74,475 expected.
Messi can become the first player to score in three Champions League finals after Barcelona’s 2009 — when they swept the league, Cup and Champions League treble — and 2011 triumphs and can equal former Dutch star Clarence Seedorf’s record of four victories in European Cup finals.
Scorching daytime temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius are expected in Germany’s capital which could affect the pace of the clash between Europe’s top two teams.
Barcelona start as favourites, but many neutrals here hope Juventus will pull off a shock win to claim the first treble in their history.
Both sides have already captured their domestic league and cup titles and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon — who experienced the thrill of winning the 2006 World Cup final in the same stadium — insists the Italian champions are not here just to make up the numbers.
Enrique cautioned his star attack will only thrive if the likes of veteran Spanish midfield duo Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez — both looking for their fourth Champions League title and the latter in his last game for the club before moving to Qatar — and Croatian Ivan Rakitic win the midfield battle against Juve’s silky-skilled playmaker Andrea Pirlo — like Buffon a World Cup winner in 2006 — France’s Paul Pogba and Chile’s Arturo Vidal.
“We are aware that our forwards capture all the attention. Firstly, because we have the best player in the world in Leo (Messi), but to be here we need to have a full team,” said Enrique who, after a rocky patch mid-campaign with rumours about his poor relations with Messi, can round off his first season with the treble.
“It is not fair just to talk about Messi, he is the best but the games are played as a team.
“I hope to see the best of my team. We have prepared as a team and we hope to see all the players at their best.
“Everyone is needed. The team has functioned marvellously, that is why we are playing for the treble, but we’ll need to be strong in midfield.
“The world of football expects a great final between two teams that will go out to win. It would be nice to see an open and fun game.”
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says it is up to the present team to prove they deserve to be considered one of the greatest sides in the world.
“We have Leo, Luis, Neymar and Andres, we have one of the best teams in the history of the club,” said the 28-year-old Pique, who like Messi, is seeking to win his third Champions League trophy.
“Now we have to prove we are one of the best teams in the world and we’re ready to do that.”
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