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Juve ready for Barca’s ‘fearsome’ trio: Allegri

Coach Massimiliano Allegri insists Juventus will be ready for the "fearsome" trio of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi when the Turin giants face Barcelona in the Champions League final.

Juve ready for Barca's 'fearsome' trio: Allegri
Juventus' coach Massimiliano Allegri at a press conference five days before the UEFA Champions League final. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Juventus's season has gone almost to perfection under Allegri, who in his first season in charge has led the Bianconeri to a fourth consecutive scudetto and their first league and Cup double in 20 years.

But Juve's hopes of emulating the treble feat of league rivals Inter Milan, in 2010, is tempered by the fact they travel to Berlin for Saturday's finale as rank underdogs.

Between them, Uruguay international Suarez (24), Brazilian sensation Neymar (38) and Argentinian ace Messi (58) have scored a stunning 120 goals this season to help Barcelona to their own league and Cup double.

Messi, in particular, has been in scintillating form, scoring his 400th goal for the Catalan club last month, hitting the winner against Atletico Madrid that clinched the league title and scoring a stunning, individual goal in a 3-1 win over Athletic that secured the King's Cup on Saturday.

Messi's latest piece of magic did not escape Juve's players, or Allegri, who admitted: “I think what he did last Saturday was good but he's also scored better goals.”

“He's an alien,” said Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci. When he sees them play, he admits, “all you can do is applaud.”

Allegri was quick to applaud Barcelona's “character and technical nous” but said Juve won't “sit back and wait for things to happen”.

“All we need to do is play our game, play well and, above all, show that we have what it takes to challenge for the trophy,” added the coach.

“Of course, what happens during the match will condition how we approach things. But we can't sit back and wait for things to happen.

“We have to concentrate on our own roles. They (Suarez, Neymar and Messi) have scored 120 goals between them this season, but we're a great side with a lot of heart.”

A look at recent history of the sides' success in Europe's premier club competition shows why Barcelona head to the German capital as favourites.

Barcelona have been crowned kings of Europe four times, the last time in 2011 when Manchester United were on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat that was inspired in large part by a Messi goal early in the second half.

That season, Messi scored 12 goals in the competition and the Argentinian, still only 27 years old, is still writing history.

Messi sits level top of the Champions League scoring charts with Cristiano Ronaldo on ten goals so far with both players tied on 77 career goals in the competition.

If Messi scores next Saturday, he will take the lead and also achieve the remarkable feat of scoring in all three of his final appearances with the Catalans.

Former two-time winners Juventus, meanwhile, are appearing in their first final since their 2003 defeat to AC Milan in a penalty shoot-out — the fifth time the Turin giants have failed at the final hurdle.

Bonucci, who has never come up against Messi in an official game, admits Barcelona's front men are “fearsome”. But the Italy defender, and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, said they are ready.

“Obviously, they're a fearsome trio but Barca is more than just their three front men,” added Bonucci. “Everyone in their team sacrifices himself for the others. That's why, defensively, we'll have to be flawless.

“But at the end of the day it's another game, it's 11 against 11 just as in any other match.”

“Messi is without doubt the best player in the world, for the past ten years, and when you come up against him there's always a little fear,” said Buffon.

“But I also know that we have what it takes to limit Messi, and the rest. We won't start as favourites, but we have a few things up our sleeves that won't make it easy for them.”

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JUVENTUS

Five reasons why Juventus have won their eighth straight Serie A title

Italian giants Juventus claimed an eighth consecutive Serie A title on Saturday after a 2-1 win at home against Fiorentina.Here are five factors that helped the Turin giants lift a 35th Scudetto with five matches to spare, equalling the record for the earliest any team has won Serie A:

Five reasons why Juventus have won their eighth straight Serie A title
Photos: AFP

Ronaldo effect

Cristiano Ronaldo was signed from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($112 million) before the start of the season, in a bid to end the Turin giants' 23-year wait for the Champions League trophy.

The 34-year-old left Real as their all-time top scorer, a record he also holds in the Champions League where he is the only player to have won five titles.

Despite their European exit to Ajax, the Portuguese superstar was a key player throughout the campaign with 19 league goals.

Both Juventus' Serie A defeats came in his absence — 2-0 to Genoa on March 17 and 2-1 to SPAL on April 13 — the latter frustrating their bid to wrap up the title with a record six games to spare.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who was defended by Juve last year after being accused of rape, was slow off the mark, having to wait until their fourth game against Sassuolo before scoring a double in a 2-1 win.

“Cristiano is the future of Juventus, he has had an extraordinary season,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri after the Champions League loss.

Rising star Kean

Teenage sensation Moise Kean burst through during Ronaldo's absence through injury, scoring six goals in the last seven matches for Juventus, having played just nine this season.

The 19-year-old, who provides an alternative to Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala up front, admitted: “I learn from Cristiano Ronaldo in training, I steal his secrets.”

Born in Italy to Ivorian parents, his first league appearance this season was just four minutes away against Fiorentina on December 1, with his first goals a double in a 4-1 win over Udinese on March 3.

Controversy overshadowed his only full match for the champions when he was subjected to racist abuse against Cagliari on April 2.

The youngster hit back by scoring in Sardinia and again in the following game against SPAL.

Bonucci back

Leonardo Bonucci returned to Turin after an unhappy season at AC Milan to recreate the so-called 'BBC' defensive partnership alongside veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.

The absence of the trio through injury was felt when Juventus conceded six goals in two games including a 3-3 draw with Parma on February 2 — days after being eliminated from the Coppa Italia.

“Mr Bonucci and Mr Chiellini could teach lessons at Harvard University about how to be a central defender,” said Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho.

Juventus have conceded only 23 goals in 33 games, the best record in the division.

Safe hands

Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has proven to be a worthy successor to Juventus and Italy icon Gianluigi Buffon, who left for Paris Saint-Germain.

The ex-Arsenal player arrived in Turin in 2017 after falling down the pecking order at the Premier league club.

The 28-year-old got off to a stuttering start in the season opener, conceding two goals in a 3-2 win at Chievo, but has conceded only 15 goals in the 24 times he has played so far this season.

New arrival Mattia Perin, who joined from Genoa last summer, has proved less effective with eight conceded in nine games, and was between the posts for both their league defeats.

Winning ugly

Massimiliano Allegri doesn't mind winning ugly as he claimed his fifth league title in as many years with Juventus, and sixth in Serie A after leading AC Milan to their last title in 2011.

Allegri — who has now won 11 trophies with Juventus — has strenuously defended his team's often-criticised style of play, despite Juve leading the way in the Italian top flight with 67 goals scored.

“Beautiful football doesn't pay off, at the end of the day you've got to just kick it away from your goal,” the 51-year-old fumed after the draw with Parma.

“They need to realise there is no shame in hoofing the ball into the stands if needs be.”

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