History will be made in Germany on Saturday, regardless of whether the kings of Spain or Italy are crowned champions of Europe.
In Italian, the word is ‘triplo’. In Spanish and Catalan, it’s ‘triple’. One word is dominating the build-up to Saturday’s mouth-watering Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona: treble.
Juve and Barca have proven themselves the dominant forces in Italian and Spanish football this season, with both claiming domestic doubles. Now, it’s time for one of them to make history by adding the biggest trophy of them all to their hauls.
Only seven teams in history have won the treble, with Barca bidding to become the first club to achieve the feat twice – just six years after Pep Guardiola’s 2009 vintage swept the board.
Juve are not part of that elite group. They travel to Berlin bidding to become European champions for the third time overall and first since 1996.
But while many make Barca overwhelming favourites to claim their fourth Champions League title in 10 seasons, coach Luis Enrique – who is looking to emulate his great friend Guardiola by winning the treble in his first season in charge at Camp Nou – is not so sure.
“Winning the Champions League would signify a treble for us and it’s something that excites everyone. It’s happened just once in the club’s history, and this tells you how difficult it is to achieve,” he said.
“[But] I’m concerned about everything Juventus have to offer. They possess quality players. I hope [playmaker Andrea] Pirlo doesn’t have too much influence on the game, because we all know what he’s capable of doing.
“They have great defenders who know how to get things moving from the back. [Alvaro] Morata’s been a big asset for the team and has a real nose for goal, while [Carlos] Tevez guarantees absolute quality.”
Luis Enrique’s citing of Juve’s defence is telling.
If his front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are the irresistible force, then Massimiliano Allegri’s trio of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been the immovable object.
However, Chiellini’s absence due to a calf problem sustained in training on Wednesday represents a huge blow for Allegri.
Buffon is Juve’s captain, but it is Chiellini who is their on-field general; a leader of men who will be sorely missed as they attempt to contain Barca’s stellar triumvirate. Either Angelo Ogbonna or Andrea Barzagli are Chiellini’s most likely deputies.
Without Chiellini, Juve will have to shackle Messi, Neymar and Suarez, who have scored a scarcely believable 120 goals between them this season.
They put Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich to the sword en route to Berlin, while Messi scored a goal that can only be described as breathtaking even by his otherworldly standards in Barca’s 3-1 Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Bilbao last Saturday.
But if any defence is streetwise, tough and downright good enough to stop them, it is Buffon and co, who are aided and abetted by full-backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra.
To say a team boasting the attacking talents of Tevez, Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal are relying on their defensive colleagues for glory this weekend would be doing them a disservice.
But it was they who thwarted Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in the semi-finals, as Juve eliminated Barca’s great rivals and holders Real Madrid.
And if Messi, Neymar and Suarez can be similarly frustrated, the ‘triplo’, rather than the ‘triple’, could very much be on the cards.