New Straits Times - - Sport -

Alook at the top 11 play­ers who led Ju­ven­tus to Saturday‘s Cham­pi­ons League f i na l against Real Madrid:


The ev­er­green keeper is still pulling off fan­tas­tic saves at the age of 39, mak­ing a fan­tas­tic stop to deny Barcelona‘s An­dres Ini­esta in the quar­ter­fi­nals and keep­ing Monaco‘s at­tack mainly at bay in the semi­fi­nals. The Ju­ven­tus and Italy cap­tain has won al­most ev­ery ti­tle in the game, in­clud­ing the World Cup in 2006, but the Cham­pi­ons League is one of the few tro­phies miss­ing from his col­lec­tion.


An in­te­gral part of Ju­ven­tus‘ famed ‚BBC de­fence‘ along with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, Barzagli helped put on a de­fen­sive mas­ter­class to shut out Barcelona over the 180 min­utes of their Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nal. At 36, Barzagli is the old­est of the three, but the World Cup win­ner is still re­garded as one of the best and most con­sis­tent de­fend­ers of his gen­er­a­tion.

With 93 ap­pear­ances, more than any other player - in­clud­ing cap­tain Gian­luigi Buf­fon, he has been an ever-present for Ju­ven­tus over the past two sea­sons. The 30-yearold Italy in­ter­na­tional is also re­garded as one of the best ball-play­ing de­fend­ers in world foot­ball, show­ing his skills with a stun­ning goal against Genoa re­cently, go­ing on a mazy run from inside his own half.

Phys­i­cally strong and ag­gres­sive, Chiellini is one of the old-school de­fend­ers. Softly spo­ken off the pitch, he has earned a rep­u­ta­tion on it as a tough, no-non­sense cen­tre back, who goes into tack­les with no fear. He has bro­ken his nose four times. A cor­ner­stone of the Ju­ven­tus back line since join­ing in 2005, his height makes him a threat at set pieces in the op­po­si­tion‘s penalty area.

De­scribed as past his best when he joined from Barcelona on a free trans­fer last June, the 34-year-old Alves was of­ten mocked dur­ing the sea­son. How­ever, he has grad­u­ally proved his crit­ics wrong, cul­mi­nat­ing in a man-ofthe-match per­for­mance in the sec­ond leg of the semi­fi­nal against Monaco, scor­ing one goal and mak­ing the other. He won the Cham­pi­ons League three times with Barcelona.

He may not get the head­lines, but San­dro‘s solid per­for­mances and­play­ingstyle­haveseen­him­com­pared to former Brazil star Roberto Car­los. A very at­tack-minded full-back, he can play any­where on the left flank and his per­for­mances for Ju­ven­tus have drawn in­ter­est from other top Euro­pean sides. A pow­er­ful­run­ner,hecan­beat­op­po­nentsone-onone and helps cre­ate chances.


His re­cov­ery from a leg in­jury has given Ju­ven­tus a timely fit­ness boost ahead of the fi­nal against his former club. Khedira played more than 150 match­es­forReal Madrid in five sea­son­sin Spain,help­in­git­totheCham­pi­onsLeague ti­tlein2014.TheGer­manyWorldCup­win­ner joined Ju­ven­tus on a free trans­fer in 2015 and has been in­dis­pens­able this sea­son af­ter pre­vi­ously strug­gling with in­juries.

Pjanic strug­gled to fit in dur­ing the first half of the cam­paign, af­ter trans­fer­ring from Roma in the off sea­son for 32 mil­lion eu­ros but the Bos­ni­aandHerze­gov­inamid­fielder­has­s­lowly adapted to life at Ju­ven­tus. The 27-yearold Pjanic is also one of the best free kick spe­cial­ists in the world, and has both scored and set up goals for oth­ers from dead-ball sit­u­a­tions.


The striker will hope for a re­peat of the 2013 fi­nal, when he scored the open­ing goal to set Bay­ern Mu­nich on its way to a 2-1 win over Borus­sia Dort­mund. Hav­ing joined from Atletico Madrid in 2015, the 31-year-old Croa­tia for­ward has dropped into a deeper role re­cently at Ju­ven­tus be­cause of his abil­ity to hold up the ball. But he is also a key tar­get man thanks to his height, phys­i­cal strength and aerial prow­ess.

Since join­ing from Palermo for 32 mil­lion eu­ros in 2015, Dy­bala has had a fan­tas­tic two years at Ju­ven­tus - and this sea­son has made an im­pact on the in­ter­na­tional stage, earn­ing com­par­isons with com­pa­triot Lionel Messi. The 23-year-old Dy­bala signed a new con­tract in April, ty­ing him to the Bian­coneri un­til 2022, a deal that came days af­ter he net­ted two goals in the first legoftheCham­pi­onsLeague­quar­ter­fi­nal against Barcelona.

Signed from Napoli for an Ital­ian-record 90 mil­lion eu­ros, there were ques­tion marks over Higuain as he ap­peared to be over­weight at the start of the sea­son. But de­spite be­ing less of a fo­cal point than he was at Napoli, Higuain has nev­er­the­less net­ted 24 league goals and five in the Cham­pi­ons League, as well as three in the Ital­ian Cup.

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