Juventus saw off Barcelona with ease in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final, showing the rest of Europe that they are to be taken seriously as contenders
By taking Barcelona apart with a 3-0 win on Tuesday night, Juventus showed the world not only why they have been so dominant in Serie A, but why they are finally ready to go one further in Europe.
Before the Blaugrana had even gotten warm in Turin, Paulo Dybala had already given the Bianconeri the lead, and it didn’t get any easier for the visitors from there. In fact, they were two goals behind soon after when Dybala netted again midway through the first half – only once before have Barca been behind by so many, so early, when – in 2005 vs Chelsea – they found themselves with a two-goal deficit just 17 minutes in.
The immediacy of their advantage might have taken Barca by surprise, but Juventus running out as comfortable winners on Tuesday was anything but a shock. Now, the return leg at the Camp Nou will be more a case of damage limitation for the Catalan side and the chances of a repeat of their historic last 16 comeback against Paris Saint-Germain are slim to none.
Despite having just over 30 per cent possession, Juve’s win was never really in doubt after they took the lead. They never looked overly threatened by Barcelona and, if anything, they probably should have won by more than three goals.
Gonzalo Higuain passed up a couple of chances to put the tie beyond any doubt, while Juan Cuadrado had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside as well.
Juventus showed they are happy to suffer. In the second leg, they will gladly concede possession and sit tight, waiting for Barcelona to overcommit and leaving them space to counter and punish their hosts.
With Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci holding things together at the back, even the trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will have to feed on scraps. When they do manage to breach the backline, they will still have to beat Gianluigi Buffon, who showed Andres Iniesta first and Suarez second exactly what he is capable of with two great saves on Tuesday.
Even further up the field, Juve boast an attack who are incredibly adept at defending. In particular, Mario Mandzukic has shown time and again this season why he is the perfect defensive forward.
Mandzukic is happy to do a job anywhere and his willingness to battle until the end helped Alex Sandro to cut off Messi in Turin. The world’s best player was muted, largely thanks to Juve’s striker-turned-all-rounder. The Croat’s attitude and work rate are representative of this Juventus team as a whole, and with Juan Cuadrado on the other side, Juve’s attack-minded full-backs have plenty of protection in front of them.
Should Juventus see out the second leg and progress, as expected, they should fear nobody who stands in their way. A potential meeting with Bayern Munich or Real Madrid is something they have proven themselves capable of overcoming.
In truth, Atletico Madrid are probably the one side the Old Lady would look to avoid more than any other, as they too prefer to sit back and counterattack rather than dominate possession.
Juventus have proven year on year to be the best team in Italy. Now, finally, they look ready to be crowned the best in Europe.