Juventus did the job in Monaco. The home leg was nothing more than a formality for them against one of the most exciting teams in Europe. It took Monaco over two and a half hours to break Juve down in their two game contest. This was the first time the Italian giants had conceded in the knock out phase of this years competition, not bad to say they had met Barcelona in the previous round. They are seven points ahead of Roma in Serie A with three games left to play. They have every right to be confident. However, it is their history that could fill Juve fans with worry ahead of their big day in Cardiff.
Juventus have contested the final top European club competition eight times in their history. Their record is not an enviable one. They have won the trophy on two occasions in their eight final appearances. The first success came in 1985, they played against Liverpool. A single goal separated the two teams and it came from the penalty spot. Michel Platini stepped up to send Bruce Grobbelaar the wrong way after the penalty was given controversially. The football was overshadowed by an event in the stands. A wall collapsed after Liverpool fans charged at Juventus supporters who had gained access to the neutral zone which was set up for local football supporters. This became know as the Heysel Stadium disaster where 39 fans lost their lives.
The second of their triumphs came 11 years later when Juventus beat Ajax on penalties in Rome. Marcello Lippi’s side took the lead early in the first half through Fabrizio Ravanelli who capitilised on a mistake from Frank de Boer and Edwin van der Sar. The sides were level just before half time when Jari Litmanen scored for Ajax. The game went to penalties and Juve keeper Angelo Peruzzi saved Ajax’s first and fourth penalty to hand the Italians their second European cup winning 4-2 on penalties.
That is as good as it got for the Old Lady in terms of success. The next two years saw them reach the final in both campaigns. Borussia Dortmund beat them in the 1997 final and Real Madrid suceeded over them the following year. These two defeats doubled Juve’s losses in the elite European competitions final as they had earlier lost to Ajax (1973) and Hambury (1983).
It was five years later when they reached the final again. It was an all Italian final with A.C Milan also fighting their way to Old Trafford It was a technical game which entertained. Neither team scored in regular or extra time which meant that it would go to penalties to decide who would lift the trophy. Juve lost the penalty shoot out to put another final defeat on their record.
It was 12 years before Juve would make their way to the final again. In that time the club had been wrapped up in a match fixing scandal and been forced to drop down to Serie B. They achieved promotion back to Italy’s top flight and had to rebuild from there. On the way to this final Juventus had beaten Real Madrid in the semi finals to earn the right to contest the final against Barcelona. However, it was not the ending they hoped for. They were beaten 3-1. Outclassed on the night by Messi et al.
So why should Juventus be positive about this final? After all they face the most successful team in the competitions history, Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo has been dominant in the tournament scoring 10 goals, one behind Messi who is the top scorer in the Champions League as it stands.
For one Juve have an incredible defensive record. In the Champions League this season they have conceeded three goals in 12 games. This is no fluke as their domestic form has seen a similar trend, they have conceed just 23 goals in 35 games so far. Their defence is full of experienced international players. Gianluigi Buffon sets the tone. At 39 years old this may be his last chance to taste success in this tournament. He’s has had a brilliant career and this would be a marvelous send off for him. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Dani Alves are all 30 or above and have a vast amount of experience at this level. This really is a foundation for the Italian team to build on.
Their stratergy is based on defence, but they have more to their game than that. They have some of the best players going forward in the world. Gonzalo Higuain has been their top scorer in this years competition with five goals. He joined Juve from Napoli at the start of the season for £75 million and has given their front line something different. A classy striker who moves well and is one of the deadliest finishers in the business. He will be out for something to prove in Cardiff having played for Real Madrid for six years. After comments earlier this year he said that Juventus fans would never boo their own players as Madrid have done recently with Ronaldo. If Higuain feels he has something to prove he could be vital to a Juventus win. With players around him like Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic it could be a very long night for Real Madrid’s inconsistent defense.
Can Juventus defeat the mighty Real Madrid at the Millenium Stadium on Saturday 3rd June? If they perform to the standard they have been doing in the Champions League – of course they can.