Juventus and Barcelona meet in the 2015 UEFA Champions League final at Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany on Saturday with Argentine superstar Lionel seeking to make history as the first player to hit the back of the net in three finals.
To reach the Berlin final, Juventus (nicknamed The Old Lady) defeated holders Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in the semifinal while Barcelona beat 2013 champions Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate.
And Juventus midfield star Paul Pogba, who will be playing in the final of arguably best the football tournament in the world for the first time, will take the centre stage alongside his idol Messi at Olympiastadion where the final of the German Cup (DFB-Pokal) has been played since 1985.
Pogba, who sang the praises of Messi during the week, said playing alongside Messi would be a “dream come true”.
But the 22-year-old, who was born to Guinean parents in France, believes Juventus can win the title today at Messi’s expense.
The Turkey 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup winner will lift the Champions League trophy for the first time if Juventus beat Barcelona today.
“Messi is the best player in the world. I love watching Barcelona play, but I also love watching them lose. We know that we’re not favourites but it’s a final,” AS quoted the former Manchester United player as saying.
“We’re going to give our all. We have nothing to lose and you never know what can happen.”
Juventus and Barcelona will be appearing in the final of the tournament final eight times, but this is the first time they will meet in the last stage of the competition.
Both teams will be arriving at Olympiastadion after claiming double victories at home.
Juventus won both the 2014–15 Italian Serie A and the 2015 Coppa Italia while Barcelona are champions of the 2014–15 La Liga and the 2015 Copa del Rey. And Barcelona will try to repeat their 2009 historic treble success with Messi calling the shots – supported by the prodigious Neymar and Luis Suarez in the attack. Aside from Pogba, Juventus will rely on veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the indefatigable Andrea Pirlo, hard-tackling and aggressive Arturo Vidal and on-loan Real Madrid striker Álvaro Morata as well as Carlos Tevez to achieve the treble.
Messi emerged as the hero of the 2009 final after his brace helped Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0 to win the trophy in Rome on May 27, 2009.
The 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner (the only player to win the award four times) guided Barcelona to their fourth Champions League title after he scored the second goal in the Catalans’ 3-1 defeat of Manchester United in the final of the tournament at Wembley Stadium in London on May 28, 2011. Pedro Rodríguez scored the first goal with David Villa’s third sealing victory for the Spanish La Liga giants.
Messi will overtake Qatar-based Raul (2000, 2002), Samuel Eto’o (2006, 2010) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2008, 2014), who scored goals in two finals each.
The 27-year-old, who has won the Champions League thrice (2006, 2009, 2011), will be joined by 11 players seeking to win the title on more than one occasion.
Four Juventus players: Pirlo won the title with AC Milan in 2003, 2007) while Patrice Evra and Carlos Tevez were in the Manchester United team that lifted the trophy in 2008). Morata helped Real win the tournament in 2014.
Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Qatar-bound Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets and Pedro played alongside Messi when Barcelona won their last Champions League title at Wembley on May 28, 2011.
Juventus and Barcelona will be appearing in the final of the tournament eight times each, but this is the first time they will meet in the last stage of the competition.
The Old Lady won the tournament for the first time in 1985 after beating Liverpool 1-0 courtesy of Michel Platini ‘s spot-kick at Heysel Stadium, Brussels.
The victory came 12 years after Juventus lost 1-0 to Ajax (in their first appearance in the final) in Belgrade on May 30, 1973.
Juventus lost 1-0 to Hamburg in their appearance in the final at Olympic Stadium, Athens in 1983. They won the title 12 later after they beat Ajax 4-2 on penalties in Rome. The game had finished 0–0 after extra time before the shootout. Current France coach Didier Deschamps, Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluca Vialli were on winning side while former Super Eagles duo Nwankwo Kanu and Finidi George were losers.
Juventus, who will miss the services of Giorgio Chiellini in the defence, failed to defend their title as they lost 3-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the final in Munich the following year. They also reached the final in 1998 but lost to Real Madrid 1-0 in Amsterdam. The Old Lady lost 3-2 to bitter rivals AC Milan at Old Trafford in 2003 – and that is the last time they have reached the final.
Barcelona lost 3-2 to Benfica in their first appearance in the European Cup final in Bern, Switzerland in 1961 – and also lost 2-0 to Steaua Bucuresti on penalties in Seville, Spain in 1986.
The Catalans won the trophy for the first time after beating Italian club Sampdoria 1-0 courtesy of current Southampton coach Ronald Koeman at Wembley Stadium on May 20, 1992. Andoni Zubizarreta, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov and Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola were also on the winning team. They reached the final two years later, but were humiliated 4-0 by AC Milan in Athens.
It took Barcelona 14 years to reach the final and win the tournament – for the second time – after Samuel Eto’o ‘s brace helped them win the trophy after beating a 10-man Arsenal 2-1 in the 2006 final at Stade de France, Saint-Denis.
Messi guided Barcelona to the title in Rome on May 27, 2009 after scoring a brace in the 2-0 defeat of Manchester United. Barcelona won the title for the fourth time following their 3-1 defeat of Manchester United at at Wembley Stadium two years later.
Meanwhile, the Brazil 2014 World Cup Golden Ball winner, who inspired Barca to seal the Copa del Rey title for a 27th time after beating Athletic Bilbao 3-1 last Saturday, believes his side’s recent experience of winning Champions League finals will help in their bid to win the tournament today.