BARCELONA have now slumped to two consecutive shockers on the road in the Champions League; turning around this deficit against the might of Juventus is an entirely different proposition to Paris Saint-Germain.
Juve, with the second best defensive record across Europe’s top five leagues, head to Camp Nou for the second leg of this quarter final having now gone 441 Champions League minutes without conceding.
The veteran has lost two Champions League deciders. At 39, is he on the path to his crowning glory?
As for Barca, the buzz from their PSG miracle has faded, and the cracks the comeback papered over have emerged again in a limp attacking display compounded by defensive vulnerability.
“There’s a lot of players here and you think, ‘they couldn’t have got in this Barcelona team three years ago!’ – there are too many names to mention,” Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport.
“There are five or six in this team who shouldn’t even be putting on the shirt. The way they played, the intensity, the quality – it’s not on the same planet.
“These are the players who have really got to feed the front three and they’re not getting the ball to them quick enough.
“Defensively, it doesn’t look like they are any individuals who want to defend and collectively they’re not doing it. This team doesn’t press like the team that did under Pep Guardiola.
“These guys look like they don’t have any ideas or desire to want to impress.”
That quirk was put to the Juve legend before the game, and he avoided what Petr Cech and Manuel Neuer couldn’t in their last outings against Barcelona when a similar stat became a talking point in the lead-up.
Before the clash, Buffon said: “I’ve never conceded to Messi? I knew that last year, then I’d forgotten and you reminded me of it. It’s true, but it’s also because I’ve been lucky enough not to face him that often.
“Then another really lucky thing is that I’ve had great defenders in front of me who have made his job very difficult.
“Beyond all this though, when you meet certain players it comes down to you, but in this case I think a lot depends on destiny, fate and Messi himself.”
Edging past Barcelona in the return leg at Camp Nou next week would be sweet revenge for Buffon, who was part of the 2015 Juventus vintage that lost the final – a game he has not yet watched a replay of.
The 39-year-old, who recently notched 1000 career games, is on a quest to finally lift the Champions League trophy with his beloved Juventus.
His save off Andres Iniesta, who was played in majestically by Messi, came just 75 seconds before Paulo Dybala’s swiftly taken second goal.
Such is the influence of the ageless custodian – not that he’d admit it.
“I play for a top team and with the support I get from my teammates, I need to prove every game that I am still worthy of my place in the line-up,” he said.
“It was an important save considering the moment, also a difficult one, as it was an issue of thousandths of a second.
“If I have the ambition of still being considered a great goalkeeper, I need to do these things.”
Buffon is too modest to buy into the praise, but teammate Miralem Pjanic explained how highly revered his captain saying he needs to still prove his worth.
“We know that we have the best goalkeeper in the world so to have him behind us is important to us,” Pjanic told BT Sport. “He did one or two big saves.
“It is not finished. We have to do a big second game to go through to the semi-finals.”
With defensive pillars Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini once again immense, alongside Alex Sandro, Allegri loaded his midfield and they came out and blitzed a flustered Catalan outfit, with a back three featuring Jeremy Mathieu requiring re-adjustment to a back four at the break. Sergio Busquets’ absence sparked Luis Enrique’s gamble, but Javier Mascherano was shifted back into defence to save proceedings in the second period.
Gonzalo Higuain could have cashed in within three minutes, but it didn’t matter; Dybala made the La Liga outfit pay five minutes later. It would take until the 11th minute for Barcelona to settle and take up possession.
There was carnage on both flanks: Juan Cuadrado for the first goal, then Mario Mandzukic, industrious all night, teed up Dybala for the second.
Like any quality Italian outfit, Juventus masterfully protected their lead and with Sami Khedira marshalling the midfield in front of the back four, with help from Pjanic, there was little room for Messi and co to manoeuvre, despite their weight of possession.
“They can transform into good attacking football putting pressure, but when neccessary, they can also defend as a team,” Ruud Gullit said on BeIn Sports.
Steven Gerrard, working on BT Sport, said: “It’s very clear the weakness in this Barcelona team is the full-back areas.
“He backs off lets him go to the left, to the right and it’s easy for him to pick a pass.”
Although Barca did carve a couple of openings in the second-half – the best of which saw Messi squeeze a shot just wide – their task became more intimidating when Chiellini rose to extend the lead to three.
Dani Alves would have enjoyed this win more than most; he departed Camp Nou for Serie A this season and was sensational in the first leg.
Chiellini hasn’t faced Luis Suarez since their infamous clash at the 2014 World Cup, when the Uruguay striker bit the Italian defender.
But, fittingly, the Italian had the last laugh with a thumping header to extend his beloved Juve’s lead to three.
23-year-old Dybala was superb with his two goals; fitting, given every major club on the continent, including Barcelona, want to sign the Argentine.
“Paulo Dybala has grown dramatically over the last two years,” Buffon told Mediaset Premium.
“When I talk to directors or friends in football, I’ve been saying for a while that he is good enough to be in the top five players in the world and he wouldn’t be out of place in the top three.
“Having said that, he needs to prove it every time and with regularity, to show he is worthy of our expectations of him.”
Dybala said: “I am very happy - very happy because as a child I wanted to live these moments and today I managed it.
“We certainly cannot rest on our laurels. We know that we need a positive result in the second leg and need to keep a clean sheet, because it’s tough out there, tough – we all saw it [against PSG].
After the euphoria of the PSG comeback, Enrique’s farewell bid for silverware has now stumbled domestically in the league and in Europe.
“We basically gifted two goals to Juventus in the opening half. As coach, for me it’s inexplicable how they were so much better than us.
“It’s like a nightmare. We’ve had very little luck of late, and now I can only hope that from tomorrow we get back on our feet.
“In the first half the players were determined, but we made the same mistakes from Paris, and that’s a problem. Our second half was much better. But I still have the opening half in my head, like a nightmare.
“Maybe it wasn’t [a repeat of] Paris, but it was like the third half from Paris.
“I’m an optimistic person. But I take responsibility for this. I’m the coach and the buck stops at me.
“If we play as well as we can, we can score four goals against anyone.”
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