Juventus have officially completed their domestic season, and just one more game remains — the big one, the Champions League final. By now it's cliché, but this season so far has been unexpectedly terrific!
Despite regular dominance on the domestic front, it's been more difficult in Europe. At times, it's been downright dicey. But Juventus has always managed to find a way through, so far at least. On more than one occasion, the Bianconeri has gotten the rub of the green, which has resulted in wins and progress.
Juventus vs. Monaco
In the 57th minute of the first leg of this quarterfinal tie at Juventus Stadium, Arturo Vidal scored a penalty kick which won Juve the game and eventually the tie. There was nothing fortuitous about the penalty kick; the Chilean dispatched his kick with aplomb, sending the keeper the wrong way and putting the ball into the top corner. The play that led to the penalty kick, however, well there was more than a touch of luck involved. A long, raking pass from Andrea Pirlo found Álvaro Morata's run before the young Spaniard was cynically clipped by Monaco defender Ricardo Carvalho just outside the box. However, referee Pavel Královec adjudged the trip to have taken place inside the box, despite the vehement protests from the Monaco players. (One could argue that Monaco were also lucky to not have gone down to 10 men, as Carvalho was the last defender and denied a goal-scoring opportunity). Score one for the good guys.
Juventus vs. Lazio
One-all after 90 minutes, this season's Coppa Italia final went into extra time for only the second time since the final was made a one-off game (as opposed to the previous two-legged version). After a slow start to the game, Juve had recovered and were playing the slightly better football against an in-form Lazio team. Lazio started the first period of extra time in the ascendancy and on ninety-four minutes, almost put themselves back in front. Filip Djordjevic lined up from about 30 yards out and struck a fierce swerving shot that beat Marco Storari in the Juve goal all ends up. Luckily for the boys in black and white, it didn't beat the post — either of them. Yes, Djordjevic's shot — which frankly would have been a very worthy winner — hit the inside of both posts without ever having crossed the goal line. The Serbian even started to run off in celebration before being stunned, like most of the onlookers, that the ball never crossed the line. Now, we'll all remember that in the 97th minute, Alessandro Matri scored — with his own slice of good luck — a deflected winner, which gave Juventus it's tenth Coppa Italia victory and only it's third domestic league and cup double. But had it not be for that event three minutes earlier, who knows what the outcome may have been.
Juventus vs. Real Madrid
It was all Madrid after Cristiano Ronaldo equalized in the 27th minute, the goal having swung the momentum in the favor of the guests. Isco, James Rodríguez and Marcelo were having more freedom and were looking more and more dangerous. Just before halftime, Isco and Marcelo combined on the left before Isco crossed into the middle for Rodríguez. The Colombian playmaker met the cross with a bullet header, but with the goal at his mercy his header inexplicably crashed against the crossbar. It was a major relief to all Juventini worldwide. On first look, it seemed like a sitter missed. On second look, it looked the same. On third look, it was clear that this was divine intervention. Stefano Sturaro, a surprise starter over Roberto Pereyra, tracked Rodríguez on the play and stuck a boot out when the Colombian dived in for the header. The result? The ball got the faintest deflection off Sturaro's Puma boot and onto the crossbar. Without a doubt, that was the most important intervention of the season so far. Juventus went on to win the game 2-1, and well, the rest of history.
Going into the final on Saturday, many have already etched Barcelona's name onto ol' big ears. While the Blaugrana are definitely the better team, and are rightly favourites, the Old Lady should not be merely written off. It's football. It's a one off game. It's in Berlin. Anything can happen. Given some of the fortuitous incidents that have gone in Juve's favour so far this season, this season already has that air of destiny about it. Can Juve be this season's team of destiny? Only one game left to find out.
All will be revealed in three days' time.