Having reached the European Cup or Champions League final on no fewer than seven previous occasions, Juventus will hope to improve on their poor record when this year’s edition gets underway on Saturday evening.
Winning just twice—with their last victory coming in 1996—the Bianconeri will undoubtedly be huge underdogs for this clash with Barcelona.
Yet having enjoyed some excellent performances thus far in European football’s elite competition, they will hope for one last victory that would cap an incredible campaign. Indeed, if they are to add a third trophy to the domestic double they have already clinched, the Turin giants will need Arturo Vidal to be at his very best.
After a poor start to 2014-15, the Chilean midfielder once again became key to Juve’s success, making a series of crucial contributions as the season drew to a close. Only Carlos Tevez, Alvaro Morata and Paul Pogba bettered his tally of eight goals in all competitions this term, while he also weighed in with four assists.
His most recent strike came in a difficult away meeting with Sampdoria on May 2, and it secured a 1-0 victory that delivered the crucial points needed to seal the Serie A title. Vidal netted just once on the club’s march to the Champions League final, but that, too, was a vital effort that ultimately saw them progress from their quarter-final meeting with AS Monaco.
Chances proved difficult to come by in a tense first leg, and when Ricardo Carvalho's trip on Alvaro Morata saw the referee point to the spot, it was Vidal who was ultimately handed the responsibility. The pressure was immense, with his missed penalties against Olympiacos and Cesena surely replaying in his mind as he stepped up in the 57th minute.
Having blazed a shot over just before the break, he would blast the ball home in emphatic fashion and reveal afterward that he had actually asked for the opportunity. “I felt confident, so I asked Carlitos [Tevez] for the ball and then I scored,” Vidal told Sky Sport Italia after the final whistle (h/t Football Italia).
“We don’t have a first choice penalty taker, it’s whoever feels most up to it will take it,” he added, showing the confidence he has in his own ability, and Juventus have come to rely on him heavily since his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen back in 2011.
The 28-year-old has often been deployed in a more advanced role since Massimiliano Allegri moved away from the 3-5-2 formation this term, often playing slightly ahead of the other midfielders and finding himself in better attacking positions than he previously enjoyed.
Paul Pogba often switches places with him during games, but Vidal has never shirked his defensive duties no matter how Juventus have lined up. According to statistics from WhoScored.com, he has averaged no fewer than 4.5 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game in the Champions League, numbers that hint at just how hard he works to recover possession.
That effort is part of an incredible spirit that runs throughout the side, and one the player himself hinted at being crucial to their hopes of ultimate glory when he spoke to Sky Italia shortly after helping the Bianconeri to overcome Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
“Barcelona have extraordinary players, but so do we and in Berlin we’ll play the game of our lives,” Vidal said as he left the field at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (h/t Football Italia). “We have a very united squad, we are all brothers here because we’ve known each other for a few years now.”
“What Juventus have is a great team,” he added. While that is undoubtedly true, the Old Lady will need Arturo Vidal to once again deliver if she is to see off the challenge of Lionel Messi’s side.