Juventus - the perfect Champions League machine
Juventus' defence and attack are a match made in Euro heaven
Gonzalo Higuain's presence at the Nou Camp demonstrated why Juventus could win the Champions League.
In truth, the Juventus striker was rather wasteful and contributed little in the 0-0 draw yesterday morning (Singapore time) but that was beside the point.
His name on the teamsheet was enough to underline the Italian side's statement of intent, as Juventus qualified for the semi-finals with a 3-0 aggregate win.
When Higuain joined the club in July for 90 million euros (S$135.4m) - the most expensive transfer in Italian football history - Juventus effectively banged their collective chests and announced their Champions League aspirations.
Domestic supremacy was no longer enough. Being the biggest fish in Serie A's shrinking puddle did not satisfy the club-owning Agnelli family.
The men behind the Fiat empire wanted Rolls Royces on the European stage.
In Serie A, the most obdurate defence on the continent was just about enough to win five consecutive titles (with a sixth on the way).
In the Champions League, it wasn't. The collars and cuffs needed to match. Juventus required an attack that was the equal of their defence.
And now they have it. The Turin tinkering has finally created the perfect blend from front to back, a first XI with no obvious weaknesses that's more than capable of seeing off all sides left in the semi-finals, including Real Madrid.
Juventus' faultless dismantling of Barcelona - home and away - was a testament to Massimiliano Allegri's alchemy.
In the first leg in Turin, the coach opted for a positive, adventurous, swaggering front four of Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado.
In the second leg at the Nou Camp, Juventus settled on a cautious, defensive back six, with two holding midfielders baby-sitting that legendary black-and-white slab of granite across Gianluigi Buffon's goal.
Of course, this isn't really what happened at all.
In the first leg, Juve played the same, formidable back six at home and in the return fixture, they went to Barcelona with the same fabulous four up front.
The Old Lady could be accused of being both conservative and reckless against Barcelona, depending on which side of the halfway line you stood. Clearly, they were neither, just fortunate to field a first XI without compromise.
Allegri's unique combination of artistry and stinginess means the wily tactician can pick teams and formations without making concessions to the opponents, the venue or the occasion.
No other team left in the competition have concocted such a seamless blend of defence and attack and all three will desperately hope to avoid Juventus, acutely aware of the current power imbalance.
Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, might fancy his chances against Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, on the grounds that he's arguably the best on the planet at what he does around the penalty box.
But Real Madrid, based on their recent, haphazard showing against Bayern Munich, couldn't seriously envisage keeping out Higuain, Mandzukic, Dybala and Cuadrado across 180 minutes.
And that's assuming that the likes of Ronaldo even score against Juve's miserly backline in the first place.
Lionel Messi couldn't. In fact, the Argentinian trudged off at the Nou Camp with that Italian monkey on his back. He's still never scored against Buffon.
In this season's Champions League, not many people have.
Juventus' clean sheet in the competition now stretches across 531 minutes. They've conceded only two goals in 10 matches and none since the group stages.
Ronaldo might be Superman, but even he will struggle to penetrate the lead-lined wall of Turin.
In the Nou Camp, Juventus defended, but never stopped attacking. At home, they attacked, but never stopped defending, reminding Barcelona that today's elite isn't simply shaped around the centre circle.
The Catalan side still impress in midfield, but those attractive, knitted passes can no longer cover the gaping holes at the back.
Bonucci and Chiellini, on the other hand, are like a couple of grumpy old CEOs, older, wiser and even a little slower than their colleagues, but still masters of all they survey.
The catenaccio couple bring the lock. Dybala and company bring the key. It's a marriage of Allegri's convenience.
And if the union holds, the bells will ring in Turin after the Champions League final.