This really is your lot for the 2014/15 season – once this one is done and dusted, your diet of football is going to be severely shrunk, only to embiggen again once pre-season starts in earnest in late-July.
So how will the showpiece clash between favourites Barca and second-favourites Juve pan out? With our daily fantasy football hats on, we’ve picked a few likely stars, a pair of improbable potential heroes, and a big name we think just might flop on the big stage.
And once again, we’ve made a prediction which, if it ends up being precisely correct, will certainly win you a few bob if you back it at the bookies…
We’re not even going to mention Lionel Messi here – that he is likely to be the standout performer is so obvious, even certified moron Piers Morgan is up to speed on it. But who else among the Barca names is likely to play a key role?
For our money, Neymar is the next most-obvious player to play a decisive role. He’s in ridiculous form, scored in the Copa del Rey final last time out, and clearly relishes the big stage. Juve’s defence has been incredibly mean all season, but Neymar and Messi are laws unto themselves.
On the Italian’s side, Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba will all likely need to have big games if Juve are to upset the form book, but perhaps most important of all to their hopes of success will be the performance of their defence, and in particular, the efforts of veteran keeper Gigi Buffon. He’s definitely worth a bet as a potential man of the match.
IMPROBABLE POTENTIAL HEROES
For our money, Alvaro Morata, a former Real Madrid player, looks the best bet as a potential surprise star of the final. He’s got form in Champions League finals, after coming off the bench in last season’s finale to help Real beat city neighbours Atletico, and he is a player of growing significance to the Bianconeri.
On the Barca side, the all-too-often overlooked Ivan Rakitic could play a surprisingly pivotal role. His craft, creativity and team ethic will certainly be needed against Juve’s intimidating-looking midfield four of Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio and Vidal. Barca might have the greater firepower, but there remains a midfield battle to be won, and Rakitic just might help Barca win it.
A BIG NAME TO AVOID… MAYBE
We’re prepared to be wrong on this one, but we have a hunch that Luis Suarez may have a disappointing night, at least on a personal level. Sure, Juve’s Giorgio Chiellini is ruled out, which at least removes one delicious distraction (i.e. Chiellini’s shoulder) from the equation. And freed from the urge to chew on the Italian, Suarez could be the real stand-out Barca performer, but of Barca’s myriad bright stars, we make Suarez the most-likely to fail to shine.
We can see this one starting edgy and staying edgy, unless Barca take an early lead. We’re betting against that, however, and predicting a goalless first period followed by a Barca success in the second half. If Juve do manage to score first though, it could well be a very long night for Barcelona…
Barcelona 2 (Messi 72, Neymar 88)