Juventus put in an impressive performance to beat Barcelona 3-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter final tie on Tuesday night
Paulo Dybala struck twice in a brilliant first half performance, and Giorgio Chiellini added a rare goal to wrap things up for Juventus after the break, as the hosts claimed a commanding advantage ahead of next week’s return tie.
Barcelona will now need another miracle similar to the one they pulled off against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, but on the back of this display from Juventus, the Catalans will have their work cut out for them.
The scoreline could have been very different, with Gonzalo Higuain missing two great opportunities and Barcelona themselves showing rare profligacy, with Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez also missing golden opportunities for the visitors.
It was a hugely entertaining match, and football fans everywhere will definitely be waiting for the second leg with bated breath, but there is still plenty to talk about from the first leg. We take a look at the key talking points from the match.
Paulo Dybala, the baller
Paulo Dybala has been perennially linked with moves to several of Europe’s giants on the back of his performances over the last two seasons. Even Arsenal were heavily linked with a move for the Argentinian international before he made the switch to Juventus.
The Italian Serie A does not match the popularity of the English Premier League or the Spanish La Liga around the world, so many have not seen what Dybala is capable of on a regular basis. Last night, the world would have been watching as Dybala took on one of the clubs he has been linked with for some time.
The 23-year-old put in a magical performance. Dybala’s first goal was a thing of beauty. A deft touch into space to free up his body was followed by a brilliant curling finish. His second goal was a pin-point shot that beat Marc-Andre Ter Stegen at the near post.
His overall performance was also hugely impressive. Dybala constantly tracked back and showed great energy to burst forward whenever needed. His slick passing and skills on the ball got Juventus out of pressure situations on several occasions and the links with moves away from Juventus will only get stronger off the back of last night’s performance.
Paulo Dybala v Barcelona (H) – #UCL – 170411
A star in the making.pic.twitter.com/OI0qBG9Htf
— Morad (@moradfutbol) April 12, 2017
Massimiliano Allegri’s reputation continues to grow
Massimiliano Allegri got his tactics spot-on last night as he set up his team to take on Barcelona. Juventus defended as a unit, often doubling up on players, and not allowing Barcelona’s star-studded lineup time to breathe.
They were efficient on the counter and watertight in defence. And despite Barcelona carving open a few chances, there are very few teams who can completely nullify their brilliant attacking talent. Allegri’s tactics came close to doing that last night.
The Juventus manager has been linked with moves to several of Europe’s top clubs, most notably Barcelona themselves, as well as Arsenal, but the Bianconeri would be wise to hold on to their manager, especially considering the special team he has slowly been building in Turin can only get better.
Immense squad building from Juventus and Allegri btw. Only BBC + Gigi remain from the CL Final two years ago, crazy.
— g (@1GAFC) April 11, 2017
Messi did his best but Barcelona’s profligacy cost them
When Barcelona fail on occasions like these it is often Lionel Messi who is singled out for unfair criticism. Last night, the Argentinian performed excellently, but could not do anything to prevent Barca from crumbling.
Messi was the target of repeated fouls and was constantly double-marked as he usually is, but the Argentinian is never one to shy away from a challenge and constantly dropped deep to look for the ball and drive forward to make things happen for his side.
Messi made 3 key passes, completed 5 successful dribbles, had 2 shots on target, made 2 tackles but despite those impressive statistics, he was let down by the finishing of his teammates. Barcelona have to make better use of the opportunities their Argentinian magician gives them in the next leg if they want to progress to the semi-finals.
— Pablo Espinales (@PSlifer27) April 12, 2017
Chiellini the man for the big occasion
Every big club in Europe has one defender that is fondly remembered as a legend that would grab his team by the scruff of their necks during adversity and lead them to victory against all odds time and time again.
For Madrid, it is Sergio Ramos. For Chelsea, John Terry. For Juventus, it is Giorgio Chiellini. The 32-year old has scored some important goals for Juventus over the years, and while last night wasn’t a night where his team needed inspiration, he was still a leader on the pitch.
Regardless of the third goal, Chiellini put in some hugely important tackles and was simply majestic at the heart of Juve’s defence, marshaling his players the entire match and calming heads whenever necessary.
Many have said that Barcelona can come back to progress to the next round despite this defeat just as they did against PSG, but with a defender like Chiellini leading the team from the back, Juventus do not look like they are in danger of collapsing anytime soon.
Giorgio Chiellini’s game by numbers vs. Barcelona:
100% aerial duels won
5 aerial duels won
3 tackles won
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 12, 2017
Can Barcelona do it?
Barcelona put in one of the most memorable comebacks of all time – up there with Liverpool’s Champions League triumph over AC Milan – to defeat PSG 6-5 on aggregate despite being 4-0 down after the first leg in the round of 16.
That result showed that you can never write off a team that is filled with such incredible talent, and PSG perhaps took the match too lightly and paid the price for it with an embarrassing exit at the hands of Luis Enrique’s side.
Many saw that as a catalyst to ignite Barcelona’s season and their form did improve. However, beating a side as well drilled as Juve is a completely different prospect. While Barcelona are still capable of mounting another spectacular comeback, Allegri and co. will be well aware of what happened to PSG, and the smart money would be on Juventus progressing to the next round.