Champions League final: Neymar hails Barcelona strikers' bond

Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez
Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have scored 120 goals between them this season

Champions League final

Venue:
Olympic Stadium, Berlin
Date:
Saturday, 6 June
Kick-off:
19:45 BST
Coverage:
Live commentary BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

Barcelona's Brazilian striker Neymar believes his friendship with fellow South American superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez is the key behind the season of success that has led them to the Champions League final.

The attacking trio - labelled "The Trident" in Spain - have scored 120 goals this term as Barcelona now set their sights on beating Juventus in Berlin on Saturday to add Europe's elite trophy to La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

He said: "Leo and Luis are just extraordinary players, extremely high-quality players. I think the main factor is our friendship on the field and also outside. We are all very good friends and that helps a lot."

After an early period of adjustment, Argentina's Messi and Uruguayan Suarez have left a trail of devastation among opponents both in La Liga and the Champions League.

Barcelona

Neymar claimed the clash in Berlin's Olympic Stadium was the biggest of his career, with the 23-year-old saying: "Ever since I was six or seven I have been dreaming about this possibility and now the time has come."

He suffered injury agony when he carried the hopes of Brazil in last summer's World Cup as he was ruled out with a back injury before they suffered their humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-final.

"I have played many finals but I think this is the most important one of my career to date," said Neymar. "It is the most important match of my life. It has been my dream since I was a child and I really hope to enjoy this game."

What threat do Juventus pose?

The common perception is that Saturday's final will showcase the aforementioned Barcelona attack against Juventus's typically efficient Italian defence.

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How do you stop Barcelona's attack?

Juventus do indeed have a stubborn backline, with the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichtsteiner operating effectively in front of experienced goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and behind playmaker supreme Andrea Pirlo.

But this overlooks the ability Massimiliano Allegri's side have going forward.

Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal are two of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe, former Manchester-based striker Carlos Tevez is one goal shy of 30 for the season and Barcelona will be aware of the threat posed by his likely partner, former Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata.

It is plenty to justify Buffon's assertion that his side are not heading to Berlin to "be the victims" and back up defender Leonardo Bonucci's claim that the game "can't just be summed up by saying it's a strong Barcelona attack against the Juventus defence".

Has the bite been taken out of the contest?

Giorgio Chiellini and Luis Suarez (right)
Luis Suarez (right) was banned for four months for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup

Saturday's final has been stripped of arguably its most fascinating sub-plot, with an injury to Giorgio Chiellini meaning he will not be tasked with facing Uruguayan Suarez, the man who bit the Italian defender at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Putting aside such soap opera intrigue, Chiellini's loss is a blow for Juve as he has been a key figure in a side that has conceded just 35 goals in 55 games this season.

Andrea Barzagli is likely to deputise for Chiellini in Berlin, but with Luis Suarez having scored 24 goals since returning from the four-month ban given to him for that bite in Natal, Juve could have done with any possible factor to distract him from his game.

So what is at stake?

The winner of the final will complete a domestic and European treble this season, with both clubs having already claimed their respective league titles and main national cup competition.

Two points separated first and second in La Liga this campaign, with Barca taking the crown from fierce rivals Real Madrid courtesy of a 1-0 win over 2013-14 champions Atletico Madrid in the penultimate game of the season.

They followed this up with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao at the Nou Camp in the Copa Del Rey final to leave the Catalan club, in the words of defender Gerard Pique: "90 minutes away from perfection".

Barcelona celebrate with La Liga trophy
Barca claimed their 23rd la Liga title this season

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who survived early criticism after taking over at the start of the season, said: "The team is where we wanted to be, with two titles won and the chance to write history by winning the Champions League."

Juventus led Serie A from the fourth round of fixtures onwards and sealed their fourth straight league title and 31st Scudetto with four games to play before beating Lazio 2-1 after extra time to win the Coppa Italia.

The Old Lady now have a chance to complete a treble and cap their revival as a European force in the year that marks the 30th anniversary of one of the club's darkest moments - the Heysel Stadium tragedy, in which 39 fans lost their lives.

Won't someone please think of the children...

It will be a joyous occasion for Juventus duo Bonucci and Buffon should their team prevail in Berlin on Saturday, but they will face some tough questions on their return to Italy.

Defender Bonucci has revealed he had to give up a day at the beach with his son due to the match.

"When I left home this morning, my son Lorenzo said to me, 'Dad, where are you going?' I told him I was going to Berlin because I had to go to work. He was disappointed and wanted to go to the beach," explained the Italy international. "I told him, we can go with mummy after I come back, so I hope I can keep him happy."

Meanwhile, Buffon has been placed in a no-win situation because his Juve-supporting sons are also big fans of Barcelona's star players.

"I have one son who is a Messi fan and the other one is a fan of Neymar, so I don't think they know what to wish for," said the 37-year-old.

"In the end, they said they will be very unhappy if Juventus lose, because they are Juve fans. But they would have preferred us to face another team in the final, like Manchester City or Real Madrid."

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