Ballack tips Juve to beat ‘vulnerable’ Barca

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Barcelona’s Argentinian soccer forward Lionel Messi. AFP PHOTO

Barcelona’s Argentinian soccer forward Lionel Messi. AFP PHOTO

LONDON: Former Bayern Munich and Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack has tipped Juventus to pull off an upset by beating favorites Barcelona in Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) Champions League finals in Berlin.

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Both teams are seeking to complete a treble of league, cup and Champions League crowns, but although Barcelona have hit dazzling form since the turn of the year, Ballack believes Juventus could yet outwit them.

“I go for Juventus,” he told Agence France-Presse during an interview in London. “Everyone thinks it’s Barcelona. Maybe it’s a little bit dangerous for them because everyone expects it, so it’s not easy.

“Juventus have a big tradition and a lot of experienced players, quality as well, otherwise you wouldn’t kick out Real Madrid in two legs [in the semifinals]. So why not?”

Ballack, a beaten Champions League finalist with both Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen, believes that Barcelona’s front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar is one of the finest forward lines of all time.

Messi’s brace, which included an astonishing solo effort, and a goal by Neymar in Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final last weekend took the trio’s tally for the season to 120 goals.

But Ballack thinks that Juventus will draw encouragement from Bayern’s 3-2 victory in the second leg of their semifinals against Barcelona, who went through 5-3 on aggregate.

“If you see them playing the way they enjoy football again, especially Messi up front, in the semi-final he was outstanding,” said the former Germany captain, who is an ambassador for Champions League sponsors MasterCard.

“He’s always unbelievable quality, but you have to mention that even he sometimes has little ups and downs, even if it’s on an unbelievable level.

“Next to him with Suarez, a great signing, and Neymar on the other side, I can’t remember the last time three players with those names played together for one team.

“It’s an outstanding team, but also vulnerable. We’ve seen that against Bayern. They conceded three goals, so there’s also a chance for other teams.”

Ballack, 38, identified French midfielder Paul Pogba, who has been linked with both Barcelona and Real Madrid, as a key figure for Juventus.

“He’s a really, really interesting player with a lot of talent, capable to run a lot, to cover a lot of distance during the match, next to [Arturo] Vidal, who’s as important as him,” said Ballack.

“He’s one of the most important players for that Juventus team because they’re really a defense-orientated team and you need players able to run from a deep position to the opponents’ box.

“They have a great player in their team.”

AFP

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