With the Champions League Final just around the corner we've decided to take a look across the enemy lines, to SBNation's Juventus blog, Black & White & Read All Over and their manager, Danny Penza. It being a special occasions, we've exchanged a few more questions than the last time we did this, five, and below you will find Danny's answers to our questions. This article will be updated with a link to the opposite part of the Q&A once it is published. Feel free to visit BWRAO, but, as always, keep it respectful as trolling will not be tolerated, as it will not be on ours.
1. Paul Pogba has emerged as one of the biggest stars playing for Juventus and he has continuously tormented defenders this season. Is there a secret we should know about how to stop him?
I think the biggest advantage Barcelona has for trying to stop Pogba is the simple fact that he hasn't been the match-dominating player he was earlier in the season. It's easy to understand why since he was out for nearly two months after he got injured against Borussia Dortmund. Pogba has looked very good in glimpses since he came back from his lengthy time away from the field. In the overall aspect of things, he's very much looked like a player working his way back to full match fitness. But the beauty of Pogba is — and that's not including his hairstyle of the month — is that he could very well be the dominant force he was before his injury Saturday night. That's why he's a threat even when he's not on top form. He just has that magic to make a huge play or two no matter how well or poorly he's playing entering a game.
2. Are you concerned about Juventus' general lack of offensive width, assuming they line up in that 4-1-3-2 we saw against Real Madrid -- as it's going to invite Dani Alves and Jordi Alba forward and generally keep Juve relatively pinned back against Barcelona? Or do you expect Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patice Evra to push up, which would in turn opens up the gaps for Lionel Messi and Neymar to exploit?
I wouldn't be all that surprised at all to see Allegri use the same kind of tactics he has used the last few Champions League rounds. Some folks may make all the "That's so Italian!" jokes they want, but Juve defending like a bunch of madmen and then hitting teams on the counter has proven to be a huge success. And when you get Carlos Tévez and Álvaro Morata out running in space in front of them, that's never a bad thing. I'm sure Lichtsteiner and Evra will try to get forward, but Juve have proven that they can create scoring chances without their fullbacks doing their best Alves imitation and bombing up and down the wings.
3. A lot has been said about the age of this Juventus team, especially on the back side where the average age of the four defenders plus the goalkeeper will probably reach 32 (Note: The Q&A was conducted before the Chiellini injury was confirmed - now the average age will probably be 33). Is there a worry they won't be able to keep up with the spring in the step of Barcelona players who have never been in such good condition this late in the season?
There's definitely some worry, as there would naturally be when you're facing Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. But I guess it's along the same lines of when Juventus faced Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo was occupying all of our thoughts. But Gigi Buffon has been his typical Buffon self, Leonardo Bonucci has been one of the best central defenders in all of Europe this season, and Juve have played very well defensively in Europe this season. While it's true they haven't seen a monster like MSN this season, it's not like Juve are anything close to just average defensively. Depending on the fitness of Giorgio Chiellini, it's not like Andrea Barzagli potentially stepping into the starting lineup is a downgrade whatsoever. So while Messi and Co. scare the absolute crap out of me because of what they're capable of and how they're playing right now, Juve have proven they can rise to the challenge defensively throughout their run to the Champions League final.
4. The teams that usually have the most success against Barcelona are those that play with a "destroyer" at defensive midfielder, or at least an out-and-out holding midfielder. This is the position that usually features Andrea Pirlo, but, despite the legend that he is, he is not the same player anymore, especially in defense where he could very well be overwhelmed by Barcelona. Is there a plan to strengthen that area or do you (and Allegri for that matter) believe that Pirlo will be able to hold down the fort.
The thing with Allegri switching to a 4-3-1-2 is that it has pushed Arturo Vidal further up the field as more of a trequartista instead of him playing alongside Pirlo. Vidal is basically the walking definition of a destroyer in the midfield and he has really come on strong the last couple of months after starting the season so slow. Maybe Allegri plays Vidal a little deeper than normal since Barcelona have so many attacking options to try and take something away in the midfield. But if anything, Claudio Marchisio — arguably Juventus' best midfielder this season and a very underrated player by many — will have a very defensively-minded role. Marchisio has been much, much better as a regista than Pirlo this season. It's not even close, really. Marchisio's versatility allows him to play a variety of different roles, and if he's going to be asked to have more influence on defense, then I am going to be perfectly okay with it.
5. What is the biggest weakness of this Juventus side?
Overall team speed. It's a lot like the question above. Lichtsteiner and Evra are very good fullbacks, but they're not those who have rocket boosters attached to their boots whenever they make runs forward. Juventus' defense is very much one that relies on its instincts and technique rather than being one that can end an attack because it runs down the opponent. Juve's center backs aren't slow, but they're not burners, either. And depending on the status of Chiellini, Juve may or may not have their most aggressive and toughest central defender.