The ex-Bianconeri defender believes the Old Lady are the more balanced side but knows from experience how difficult it can be to triumph at Camp Nou
Alessando Birindelli believes that Juventus can win this season’s Champions League but warned his former club against taking anything for granted against a Barcelona side that he believes remains the best in the world on their day.
The Bianconeri will take a commanding 3-0 lead into Wednesday’s quarter-final second leg clash at Camp Nou, after a stirring performance in Turin last week that featured an early Paulo Dybala double and a second-half header from Giorgio Chiellini.
The game exposed Barca’s defensive frailties, as well as their propensity to self-destruct mentally, and Birindelli is confident that the Old Lady will progress to the last four.
However, Birindelli is preaching caution, arguing that while the Blaugrana are not as strong as they were when they defeated Juve in the 2015 final in Berlin Luis Enrique’s men proved in their historic 6-1 win over PSG in the last 16 that they are still unstoppable when they are in the right mood.
“I wasn’t very surprised by what happened in Turin,” the former defender told Goal. “The Bianconeri are very motivated and in the last few seasons, they have grown enormously in this competition.
“Barca, when they are lacking a little from a mental point of view, can endure very negative evenings.
“We must not forget, however, that when they decide to play, they are still the best in the world.
“But I think Juve are now a more mature team, also from a tactical perspective, with their suffocating pressing and exceptional technical qualities.
“Certainly, if you’re not good across the board, you couldn’t produce a performance like that against Barca at Juventus Stadium.
“It’s a squad that can go all the way and we should not even over-estimate the importance of having great overall balance formed by an iron defence, a powerful midfield and a lethal attack.”
Birindelli knows just how tough it is to play at Camp Nou, though. Indeed, he played a key part in one of the Bianconeri’s finest ever European triumphs, when they went to Catalunya in 2003 and triumphed 2-1 after extra-time – despite only having 10 men from the 79th minute in due to Edgar Davids’ dismissal.
The Italy international had been introduced at half-time, when the game was still scoreless, and watched as Pavel Nedved put the visitors 1-0 ahead on the night, and 2-1 up on aggregate, only for Xavi to level the game and tie soon after.
Juve were then reduced to 10 men when Davids collected a second booking but they still managed to prevail, with Birindelli breaking away in the 114th minute to tee up Marcelo Zalayeta for the winner.
“Honestly, only after the passing of so much time have I realised the significance of these moments,” Birindelli admits.
“Still today, for example, people stop me and thank me for that cross and for the goal that I scored against Deportivo La Coruna. In short, unforgettable moments.
“It had been a tough game. The Blaugrana had us on the ropes by throwing their full repertoire of skills at us: maximum-speed passing, draining possession and constant movement between the lines.
“We did well on the counter-attack, though, even if we suffered a lot physically because Barca have always been a team that make you run a lot and if you get caught short anywhere, you risk being opened up with great ease.
“Mauro [Camoranesi] had not been having a great game and, during the break, [coach Marcello] Lippi decided to put me in right away.
“I managed to get into the mentality of the match and, undoubtedly, playing that pass for Marcelo was a source of great satisfaction.
“Looking back, I consider myself fortunate. I knew how to manage my career well. I knew my limits and I didn’t push myself beyond them.
“It’s clear that one must never lack ambition but, personally, with Juventus I walked away with a lot of pride. I hope that the fans enjoyed those times too.”
Source : Goal.com News – International