Just a day into the summer preparations for the new 2014-15 season, Juventus were finding themselves in a delicate and unexpected position. For the numerous family of tifosi Bianconeri, the news that emerged came as a devastating cyclone. After three years and as many consecutive Scudetti won, manager Antonio Conte announced his resignation.
"When you are at a club as prestigious as Juventus, which boasts such an illustrious winning tradition, there is an obligation to win and that can be tougher than elsewhere," said Conte in his official statement for the club’s YouTube channel.
Few were those who believed at that particular moment that in less than a year, Juventus will have already sealed another Scudetto, fought their way to the Coppa Italia final and, most impressively, made it all the way to their first Champions League final in 12 years.
That small minority disappeared altogether the day after.
Less than 24 hours after the initial announcement, such a performance became inconceivable when Mssimiliano Allegri — sacked by AC Milan in January of that year — was named as Conte’s replacement. Yet Allegri took Conte’s "obligation to win" literally and guided his new team towards the unthinkable — the Champions League trophy just 90 minutes away and Barcelona the partner for Old Lady’s last dance.
Pragmatic, tactically disciplined and relying on the force of the group, Juventus finished second behind Atletico Madrid in their group, before seeing off Borussia Dortmund, AS Monaco and defending champions Real Madrid on their way to the final.
Allegri slowly managed to implement his preferred 4-3-1-2 formation but the capacity to switch back to 3-5-2 whenever the circumstances were demanding it was perhaps the key of this already successful season. A highly experienced, rock-solid defence boasting the likes of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichtsteiner, led from between the posts by World Cup winner and club captain Gianluigi Buffon, contained opposite attacking threats admirably throughout the season.
Its ultimate challenge, however, is waiting in the final.
Barcelona’s formidable front trio Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez has torn apart every defence it came across, the three superstars scoring an astonishing 113 goals between them so far.
But to achieve such feats, Barcelona had to pass through some darker times.
Blaugrana were still searching for the best replacement for Pep Guardiola when the miserable condition of Tito Vilanova, that eventually led to his mournful passing away in 2014, and the fruitless year under Gerardo "Tata" Martinez left them close to disarray.
It was Luis Enrique who managed to steady the ship in the end, as his appointment last summer turned out to be a most shrewd one. After a first part of the season with problems of all sort, Barcelona slowly started to run on all cylinders coming January this season.
And when the phrase "all cylinders" is mentioned, I daresay just three are meant — and indeed, needed.
Messi, Suarez and Neymar are playing some fantastic kind of football, one which recently seems to be governed by the Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno motto.
One for all, all for one. Surely Alexandre Dumas never thought his philosophy could be at one point applied in football. Perhaps the fact the sport as we know it now was not yet played at that particular time counted towards that as well.
Yet, because of Enrique, it is working and the almost effortlessly way Barcelona overcame Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Guardiola’s Bayern Munchen on their way to the final proves just that. The title in Spain has been secured and Athletic Club de Bilbao were handily beaten in the final of the Copa del Rey. A situation much similar with the one of Juventus, with both clubs aiming for the most prestigious treble there is.
Barcelona may be the favourites, but la Vecchia Signora has the maturity and, at the same time, the vivacity to give the Spanish giants a good run for their money, through the exquisite midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. Strikers Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez have also managed to develop a prolific relationship, one that is responsible with the goals, completing the industrious profile of Allegri’s team.
Berlin — the host city of the Champions League final — is also a place close to the hearts of Buffon, Pirlo and Barzagli for that was the venue where the three of them won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
"Mind you, we mustn’t go there [to Berlin] as tourists," said Buffon after Juventus booked their place in the final.
And they surely won’t.
The best attack in the world will be facing the best defence in one epic final in Berlin.
For various reasons — or perhaps just because of Berlin — Rammstein’s Ich Will springs to mind.
We want you to trust us
We want you to believe everything from us
We want to see your hands
We want to go down in applause – yeah!
But surely, Max Allegri and Juventus’ players would very much want and, indeed, deserve all that.