Lionel Messi Is Barcelona's Player Juventus Must Stop in Champions League Final

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IJune 3, 2015

Lionel Messi has recaptured his best form ahead of the Champions League Final.
Lionel Messi has recaptured his best form ahead of the Champions League Final.Manu Fernandez

Lionel Messi is back to his best and in the form of his life for Barcelona.

If we thought his performance against Bayern Munich in the semi-final of the Champions League was special, he somehow managed to top that against Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey.

The first of his two goals was jaw-droppingly good. If Juventus had already decided on a plan of how to stop La Pulga, they may want to rethink it after another masterclass.

The final will be remembered for years because of that goal, however it's worth reflecting on what else Messi brought to the table.

Barcelona should've been in front well before the opener after Neymar had expertly volleyed home one of the Argentine's trademark cross-field passes.

His wanderlust during the opening exchanges meant that Athletic's initial game plan needed to be abandoned. And that is the danger for Juve.

Massimiliano Allegri will surely want to play a normal Italian game of shutting up shop at the back and striking when play allows. He knows that man for man the Bianconeri cannot stand toe-to-toe with Barca and expect to come out on top.

Patrice Evra will be wary of allowing Messi to drift inside.
Patrice Evra will be wary of allowing Messi to drift inside.Sang Tan/Associated Press

But how his side deal with Messi is their biggest headache.

Patrice Evra will be wary. Whenever Messi moved to his side of the pitch in the 2011 Champions League Final against Manchester United he was well beaten.

The temptation would be for Allegri to ensure Paul Pogba provides defensive cover down that side, but that would severely dent Pogba's attacking instincts and ability to get forward and support the front players.

Juventus' strategy has to be spot on to stop Messi.
Juventus' strategy has to be spot on to stop Messi.Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

Giorgio Chiellini can't contemplate covering either for he then leaves Luis Suarez in a one-on-one situation with Leonardo Bonucci, and frankly there is only one winner in that situation.

Arturo Vidal's energy is required further up the pitch in support of both front men, so it's highly unlikely that Allegri will countenance a change of roles with Andrea Pirlo either.

Messi's movement and ability to drop inside in the midfield areas will open up the channels for Dani Alves down the right and Ivan Rakitic in the hybrid role that he has made his own with the Catalans this season.

Juve might fancy their chances of stopping the Argentine if they can force him to work more centrally, given that the pitch is likely to be much more congested there.

Allowing Messi space was Athletic's biggest downfall and Juve must close down those gaps quickly. Even if Messi isn't decisive, he is incisive and to paraphrase beIN Sports' Ray Hudson during live commentary of a match earlier this season, "the feet continue to dance."

Neymar and Luis Suarez provide enough of a goal threat themselves to have the Italians concerned but it is old swivel hips himself that provides the key to the lock. Barcelona would be an entirely different proposition without Messi's genius.

The question that Allegri really needs to pose to himself is can his team really rely on defence for the full 90 minutes against this quality of opposition? Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

And Barca have already shown this season that they have finally learned how to play against teams that "park the bus" for want of a better phrase.

Although he already has three winners medals, Messi has only been involved in a Champions League Final twice. On both occasions in 2009 and 2011 he scored and Barcelona emerged victorious.

Can Messi make it a hat-trick of Champions League wins in Berlin?
Can Messi make it a hat-trick of Champions League wins in Berlin?Jon Super/Associated Press

We'll see if the Old Lady of Italian football can stop this young man from making it an enviable hat-trick...

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