Stopping Messi Won’t Be Enough for Juventus

Stopping Messi Won’t Be Enough for Juventus

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Lionel Messi is quite unstoppable. If you saw the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, it was none but Leo who spun away from three athletic defenders surrounding him and then jinked three more challenges before slamming the ball into the net. If Juventus want to win the champions league title, they must have to stop him in Berlin. Stopping Leo wouldn’t be enough for Juventus, as they also have to keep eyes on Neymar and Suarez.

Before semi-final of Champions League, Bayern Munich coach and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola mentioned that it was quite impossible to defend against Leo Messi. To deal with Messi, Guardiola organized the front three and packed men in the midfield by pressing high up the pitch. The changing move was widely criticized and someone called it even ‘suicidal’. It was a kind of gamble which has made a certain kind of sense in this regard.

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Guardiola is man of plan. He seems to have reasoned. He probably recalled how his Barca side struggled against Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic. So, he made up his mind to pack the midfield and pressure the ball early with a hope perhaps his Bayern could cut off the supply to the front line.

Stopping Messi Won't Be Enough for Juventus, Barcelona
Barcelona ; image credit commons.wikimedia.org

Pep Guardiola’s plan didn’t work this time. He was forced to change the tactics after 15 minutes of the first leg in semi. It turned out that, Barcelona weren’t flustered at all by being pressed. Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic were delighted in sliding passes into the space behind Bayern’s defense line for Suarez, Messi and Neymar.

Bayern fell back deeper after that despite being able to control the ball possession. Guardiola’s side were beaten brutally by 3-0.

Juventus simply don’t have to concern about dominating the ball possession. Their only plan would be to drop deep in the field, pack men into midfield and look to make everything as congested in their defense as possible. Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez will be waiting for a counter attack as a front runner.

The ploy worked for Internazionale against Barcelona in 2010 Champions League semi-final and also for Chelsea against Barca at the same stage in 2012. But, since then Barcelona has evolved much and hopefully the plan wouldn’t be beneficial this time. Juventus striker Tevez will have a big role to play in the final.

The new Barcelona may not adapt the idea of Total Football which was implanted at the club by Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels. But, Barcelona will certainly be less prone to being frustrated by the packed defences. Barca’s front three dribble are encouraged to devastate all kind of defenses with the “MSN” (Messi, Suarez, Neymar). Back in the 2011/12 season, Messi, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez completed an average of 4.1 dribbles per Champions League match. According to WhoScored.com, in this season of Champions league, Messi, Neymar and Suarez have completed an average of 12 dribbles per game.

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When the opponent is masked a defensive cover, rather than pass their way into space, Barcelona always have the capacity to beat the defenders with a trick. Each member of Barca’s front three has the ability to take two or three defenders out of the game easily with a moment of individual brilliance. The front line of Barcelona is so high profiled that it makes them extremely hard to defend against in any situation of the game.

Juventus would likely to play with a diamond shaped midfield in the final match. Barcelona have two full-backs, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves, who will be independent in pushing on and overlapping whenever they feel like it. And here is the real problem. Juventus may find a way to stop Leo Messi, but it doesn’t mean they will be able to stop Barcelona.

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