Why Juventus can hold off Barcelona without Giorgio Chiellini

Juventus have been hit by the news this week that influential defender and club stalwart Giorgio Chiellini will miss this weekend’s Champions League final clash with Barcelona.

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It’s never easy to lose a star player, let alone a few days before a major final, and understandably, there are now even more detractors weighing in on Juve’s apparently slim chances of lifting the trophy.

That is, of course, if you can find anyone that isn’t making a reference to the bite incident with Luis Suarez from last summer’s World Cup. This was meant to be the first time the two had come up against each other since the incident in Brazil.

Juventus have featured a solid defence this season – possessing a balanced blend of experience and athleticism that has gone a long way to helping them claim another Italian title as well as guiding them to the final of the Champions League.

With the seemingly evergreen Gianluigi Buffon behind them, Chiellini, Patrice Evra, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Leondardo Bonucci are free to run the game from the back. There’s no doubt they were feeling confident of holding off a front line that has contributed 25 goals to their own quest for European glory this term.

But who will come in for such a key player? Surely Barca’s front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have no been given licence to run riot on a back line so depleted of its key component?

Not necessarily – step forward Andrea Barzagli.

Another of the club’s elder statesmen at the ripe old age of 34, there isn’t much Barzagli hasn’t done.

He has been used mostly as a bit-part player this season (16 appearances in all competitions), used late on in games to see out victories, but he possesses a number of qualities that will mean the terrible trio of Barcelona won’t be in for an easy ride.

There is no doubt that Giogio Chiellini is an exceptionally talented player. Built like a bull, his physicality is his most obvious attribute. That’s not to say that he isn’t capable of using his head when it’s required of him, but Barzagli possesses an understanding of the game and a sense of anticipation that can seldom be matched despite his advancing years.

Not one shy of a big occasion, the former Palermo and Wolfsburg stopper has appeared in ever major tournament Italy have been involved in since the 2006 World Cup.

Whereas Chiellini is best suited to taking on players of a similar physical build as himself, Barzagli is more adept with nippier fleet-footed players, and alongside the more than capable Bonucci, there is very little reason for Juve to fear.

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