1. “If you think about it Spain is the goal capital of Europe.”
If you want proof that the most prolific goalscorers ply their trade in Spain consider this: Lionel Messi scored 43 domestic goals, Neymar got 22 and Luis Suarez got 16, but still trailed Ronaldo’s ridiculous total of 48 for Real Madrid.
Barca’s big three even managed 25 goals between them in the Champions League; Messi leading the way with 10. Although Serie A has long since shed its reputation as a nightmare for strikers, the fact that the league’s top scorers (Luca Toni of Verona and Mauro Icardi of Inter) only managed 22 tells its own story.
Carlos Tevez of Juventus netted 20 with teammates Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata getting 8 each. In European competition Tevez added another 7, with Morata scoring 4 and Pogba just one. Juventus are strong defensively and effective on the counter attack - and it’s the only way they can stop Barca’s rampant forwards. The key man at the back for Juve is Giorgio Chiellini, who comes face to face (ear to teeth?) with Suarez for the first time since last year’s World Cup.
All in all it’s an absolute orgy of goal scoring.
2. “The most interesting people on the pitch are Buffon and Ter Stegen.”
The two goalies on display have contrasting pedigrees. Gianluigi Buffon is Italy’s most capped player, has been to five World Cups and has played at Juventus for 14 years.
Meanwhile Barcelona’s 23-year-old Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is in his first season at the Nou Camp and has an unimpressive record for Germany: played four, conceded 12 goals, no wins. What’s more, while 37-year-old Buffon kept 18 clean sheets in the 32 Serie A games he played this season, Ter Stegen is yet to even make an appearance in La Liga for Barcelona.
Instead he’s used exclusively in the Copa Del Rey and Champions League, two competitions in which he’s earned rave reviews. The German’s spectacular saves against Bayern Munich in the semis were worthy of Buffon himself.
3. "It's the greatest final in the history of finals."
Considering the competition is called the Champions League it’s rarely applicable. This is the first final since 2010-11 (Barcelona v Manchester United at Wembley) where both finalists have just won their domestic leagues going into the final. But it gets better. Both Barcelona and Juventus have also won their domestic cups this year - making this the first time we’ve ever gone into the final guaranteed to see a team complete a treble. It’s effectively the most champion-esque Champions League final ever.
4. "Give them their due, Germany is the home of Champions League football."
This is the eighth Champions League/European Cup final that Germany has hosted (four in Munich, two in Stuttgart and even one in Gelsenkirchen, which is roughly the size of Luton) but, amazingly, Berlin has never staged the final until now. Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus will have fond memories of the city’s Olympiastadion: they won the 2006 World Cup final here.
5. "It's a clash of the titans of legendary proportions."
No two nations have done as well in this competition as Spain and Italy. Between them they have produced 50 of the 118 finalists and this will be the seventh time the nations have met at this stage (Spain lead 4-2). Juventus have never beaten a Spanish team in the final and lost 1-0 to Real Madrid 1998; Barcelona beat Sampdoria 1-0 at Wembley in 1992 but were thrashed 4-0 by Milan in 1994. Furthermore, if Juventus are defeated they would earn the dubious honour of becoming the first club to lose six finals. It would also mean Spanish clubs have won 11 European trophies in the past 10 seasons and a second consecutive all-La Liga Super Cup.
6. "We might not have any English teams in the final but we can definitely give the Premiership credit for it."
No English team has reached the final since Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 but Premier League fans will be very familiar with some of the players on show in Berlin. Carlos Tevez of Juventus won the Champions League with Manchester United in 2008, but lost the 2009 final against Barcelona. Juve teammate Patrice Evra was also in the United team for that game and also for the defeat in 2011 meaning that he runs the risk of losing three Champions League finals to the same team.
Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano briefly played with Tevez at West Ham before joining Liverpool, with whom he lost a Champions League final to Milan in 2007; defender Thomas Vermaelen moved to the Spanish club from Arsenal last summer; and Luis Suarez joined from Liverpool, where he was punished for racially abusing the aforementioned Evra in a 2011 Premier League match. Lionel Messi, aiming to be the first player to score in three Champions League finals, has never played in the Premier League but has seen all three of his Champions League wins come at the expense of English clubs (Arsenal once and Manchester United twice), but could he do it on a wet Wednesday night at Stoke? (Yes.)
7. "The real winners here though are Adidas and Nike."
Two other giants of world football are fighting it out for glory in the final: Nike and Adidas. Both teams will wear the Swoosh on their shirts in the final but Juve switch to Adidas from next season, meaning Nike bosses will feel conflicted if the Italian club lifts the trophy. Meanwhile, the ball is made by Adidas as usual. But the most exciting equipment development will be in the world of boots – the Champions League final is increasingly being used as the launchpad for new styles, rather than the start of the next season and this year is a bigger deal than most.
Nike’s new Hypervenom II will be showcased by Neymar, and features an improved strike zone and Flyknit Dynamic Fit Collar. It also looks really cool. Adidas has gone further, making the biggest overhaul of their high-end boots since the introduction of the beloved Predator (which has now been canned along with the 11pro, Nitrocharge and F50 lines). In come the Ace 15 (designed for ‘control’) and the X 15 (designed for ‘chaos’), with Messi wearing his very own Adidas boot, the Messi 15. These will all be worn for the very first time in the final. Look out for the X on Suarez and Morata, while Rakitic and Llorente will wear the Ace. Expect well-coordinated corporate tweets if any of those players score.
8. "This is our Super Bowl weekend."
Looking back it’s barmy that the biggest match in club football was dumped on a Wednesday night. Now it’s a Saturday it means that, much like the NFL Super Bowl, the event takes over a city for a long weekend. This year the Champions Festival is at the Brandenburg Gate and features a legends five-a-side match, freestyle clinics, films, autograph sessions and more. So even if you don’t have tickets you can soak up the atmosphere and get exceptionally close to the competition. Perhaps book your Milan flights for the last weekend of May 2016 now?
9. "The really go all out, it's not just a footballing day out anymore."
The biggest queues at the Champions Festival are for Nissan’s attractions: two-on-two football in The Cage, a chance to test your skills and reactions in the Performance Maze, and - our favourite - an augmented reality experience in the Test Area. For this you wear a headset and are guided by a virtual Yaya Toure (other players are available if you’re not on his birthday card list) to recreate the feats you will have seen in the Nissan ads during Champions League matches on TV. Want to boot a ball through the open windows of a Nissan Leaf? Here’s your chance. What’s more, all the energy expended by fans at these installations is converted to a kilowatt equivalent to power the electric car that will take the trophy itself to the Olympiastadion later today.
10. "The game is going to be dominated by the midfield."
We spoke to two-time winner Marco van Basten ahead of the match and he says the midfield will be key, saying that if Andres Iniesta is passed fit (he trained with squad yesterday following a calf injury picked up in the Copa Del Rey final) “the Juve midfield has to ensure they don’t give him the space or time to create chances”. ShortList watched Juventus train at the Olympiastadion yesterday afternoon and we were most impressed by Paul Pogba’s tenacity during an 11 v 11 squad match. If he can replicate that tonight the Barca midfield will simply be unable to play the game they need to play. Although the Italian champs need to improve their shooting. The training session finished with strikers taking long range shots at Buffon but their efforts were so wayward the keeper was routinely shaking his head after watching the ball fly safely into the stands.
Words: Ben Isaacs.