Xavi Hernandez warns Barcelona that Juventus’ “old guard” led by Gianluigi Buffon remains their greatest strength.
The former Barcelona captain ended his career with the Catalans in the 2015 final, when La Blaugrana dispatched the Old Lady, and Xavi has told Marca that the memory of his last appearance still lingers.
“The memory is great, to win in my last game with Barca and win the trophy was incredible. To play a Champions League Final, even if it was only for 10 minutes, to win it and being able to lift the trophy, it’s unforgettable,” he admitted, before assessing the difference between the teams from then to now.
“We haven’t changed a lot. They’ve added players like Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Dani Alves. They’ve radically changed the midfield because there’s no longer players like Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal or Paul Pogba.
“More than the style, the difficulty lies in the three defenders and the full-backs, because they make it difficult to press high up. But you have to adapt. Barca have all the tools and Luis Enrique is at an excellent tactical level. I’m sure they’ve worked to the fullest and have analysed it.
“Juve still have a great group with Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, and then they have Buffon. The old guard at the back is very important and they have punch in attack.
“I make Barcelona the favourites. Scoring is always key in a knockout game, but the two matches will be equally important. It’d be a surprise to me if either of the two teams decided it in the first leg.”
The Juventus match will be Barca’s first in Europe since their astonishing comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, having been 4-0 down in the first leg only to win 6-5 on aggregate.
“That result has given Barca extra motivation and morale. It was incredible,” Xavi added.
“At 3-1 [to PSG], like the rest of the world, I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen. I watched it in a hotel with my father-in-law and it was like we were hallucinating with the goals in the last minute and then the last second by Sergi Roberto. It was the mother of all comebacks.”