Juve's knockout of heavyweight champions suggests they will not be pushovers in the final
Juventus had us fooled.
They were supposed to make up the numbers in the Champions League semi-finals.
They were not expected to upstage the powerhouses, not least Real Madrid.
The assumption was that they would make a fight of it, but eventually fall victim to the big guns.
Obviously, they didn't read the script. They did the unthinkable. They defied fate. They knocked out the holders.
With nerves of steel, the Old Lady came back from a goal down in the second leg to draw 1-1, and in the process knock out the Galacticos 3-2 on aggregate yesterday morning (Singapore time).
At a corner of the Santiago Bernabeu, a small pocket of away fans celebrated wildly amid the prevailing gloom.
Be afraid, Barcelona.
If Lionel Messi and Co. are expecting a stroll in the final on June 6, they will walk right into an ambush. Real's downfall over two legs is the perfect warning.
Juventus' excellence in Europe this season has come as a surprise.
A traditional powerhouse, they, like all Serie A teams in recent years, have gone through a slump in the continent's premier competition.
Their finances no longer allow them to compete for players in the top bracket. Their previous mediocre displays in the Champions League make it even tougher to attract the very best.
This vicious circle eats into the spirit and tenacity that once made Italian clubs one of the most feared.
Prior to this season, Italy, one of the big four in European club football, had provided only five of the last 32 Champions League finalists.
Germany contributed seven, while England and Spain led the chart with nine. This time, Juventus have bucked the trend.
They built a team around a spine of fiercely loyal stalwarts - goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio - and then found the other missing pieces of the jigsaw.
Their astuteness in their transfer dealings was remarkable.
They spotted the potential of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata and they saw value in veterans such as Patrice Evra and Carlos Tevez.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri killed off Real with a counter-attacking game that demanded high and aggressive pressing.
In the face of an intimidating star-studded attacking force helmed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Buffon instilled confidence in the Chiellini-led backline.
The midfield quartet of Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal held their ground in a disciplined and tactical performance, leaving Tevez and Real old boy Morata to inflict the damage up front.
At times, they came under siege, but they were never over-run.
It is clear where Juventus' strength lies. In 12 Champions League fixtures, they have conceded only seven goals - three less than their more gilded final opponents, Barcelona.
The potent mixture of organisation and defensive solidity often trumps flair and imagination.
Five years ago, Inter Milan booted Barcelona out in the last four through sheer grit.
Chelsea, in the 2012 final, reduced Bayern Munich to tears on their home ground with a similarly systematic display.
Juventus will no doubt start the final in Berlin as the underdogs.
But Barcelona must ready themselves for rough ride, one which may end in disaster if they don't heed the warning signs.
Allegri: tough to block 'msn'
"There are certain phases in the game in which you also need to wait and be patient. You have to know how to read the game and handle the result."
- Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri (above)
Stopping prolific Barcelona forwards Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in the Champions League final will be a formidable task, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said, after his side clinched their place in next month's showpiece in Berlin.
Juve eliminated holders Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate, thanks to a 1-1 draw in yesterday morning's (Singapore time) semi-final, second-leg clash at the Bernabeu, and will bid for a third continental title when they meet four-time winners Barca at the Olympic Stadium on June 6.
Juve's hopes will hinge on whether they can thwart Barca's South American attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, known in Spain as "MSN", who have rattled in a club-record 114 goals between them in all competitions this season.
Neymar scored three and Messi struck twice as Barca eased past Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate in their Champions League semi-final.
Messi is joint-top scorer with Real's Cristiano Ronaldo in the latest edition of Europe's elite club competition with 10 goals. Neymar has netted nine times and Suarez six.
"Anything is possible in one game, but it will be a mountain of a task to contain a team boasting the likes of Messi, Suarez and Neymar," said Allegri.
"Still, I am not thinking about Barcelona or the possibility of winning a treble just yet because we first have the Italian Cup final against Lazio."
Juventus have shown an uncanny ability to change their approach according to the circumstances and Allegri now has to decide which version of his side he wants to face Barcelona in the final next month.
The Old Lady, the first Italian side to reach the final since 2010, have won Serie A by playing a possession-based attacking game, with a diamond in midfield and pressing deep in the opponents' half.
In the Champions League, they have alternated between that approach and what critics describe as old-school Italian style, in which they field three central defenders, pack their men into the last third of the field and strike on the break.
Allegri often switches between the two styles during the match, as he did in yesterday's draw.
With Real pushing forward for a winner, Allegri took off playmaker Andrea Pirlo and brought in Andrea Barzagli as a third central defender.
Juve played with the three-man defence for an hour in their tie away to Borussia Dortmund, picking off the frustrated German side on the counter-attack on their way to a 3-0 win, and did the same for the whole of their quarter-final second leg at Monaco.
One of Allegri's favourite phrases is about "administering the match", an ability which he regards as fundamental in his players.
They carried out his instructions to the letter at the Bernabeu, although they have occasionally allowed their attacking instincts to get the better of them.
Allegri now has to decide which approach to start with in Berlin in the final on June 6, where his side are clear underdogs against the attacking might of Barcelona. - Reuters.
"A lot of credit must also go to Allegri, as he has always changed the menu, by which I mean the formation. Now, we’ll see which menu he has in store for us in Berlin."
- Juventus defender Patrice Evra on Allegri’s tactics for the Champions League final
By the numbers
Call it coincidence, but three of the last four goals scored by Juventus in the Champions League have come in the 57th minute.
Massimiliano Allegri joins Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo as the fifth Italian coach to lead a team to a Champions League final.
No club have lost more European Cup/Champions League finals than Juventus' total of five - a record they share with Bayern Munich and Benfica. The Italian side have won twice (1985 and 1996) out of seven finals they've played in.
Juventus have scored 16 goals in the Champions League this season, leaving them in seventh place, behind teams like Arsenal (18), Chelsea (20), Porto (25) and Barcelona (28). The Italian side have conceded seven goals while their final opponents, Barcelona, have let in 10.
The Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus will be the first between clubs from Spain and Italy for 17 years. The last one was Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Juventus in Amsterdam in 1998.