Becoming champions is not a two-way street. It’s all about winning, no matter what. Winning when your back is against the wall and there is seemingly no hope. Scraping that goal in added time after the opposition felt they had secured a point. That is the mettle of champions that Juventus possess and have shown throughout the course of this season. This is a trait Juventus and Barcelona fans might have been familiar with this season.
Barcelona grinding out victories probably won’t be seen as a thing of pride as they are known for their flamboyance, fabulous football, and ability to just sweep opponents aside. In the end, all that matters is results and Barcelona as well as Juventus have been doing just that so far. It is a testament to the fact that both teams have been a part of several title races in recent seasons.
Juventus’ title triumphs throughout their dominant spell have been predicated on a strong defensive structure. From the three-man central defensive pairing that saw current Inter boss Antonio Conte win three straight titles, to the back four of Massimiliano Allegri that saw him win an additional five titles, solidarity at the back has been one of the keys to their huge success, and this season has been no different.
Make no mistake – Juventus have not hit their best heights this season, but remain at the top in the Serie A and their Champions League group. A quick look at their recent results tells two completely different stories. Up front, it is the fact that they are not scoring well enough and seem to struggle for goals.
Prior to the game against Atalanta, Juventus won six out of their seven fixtures by a one-goal margin with the exception of a 1-1 draw with Leece (Skysports).
The fact that four of those six wins came with a 2-1 scoreline showed their resilience to maintain those wins. They involved late goals, coming from behind, scoring with few opportunities, and of course a slice of luck going for them as well.
While the 3-1 scoreline against Atalanta at the weekend suggested a dominant game, the actual proceedings of the game were far different and had Barrow Musa converted his penalty in the first half, it could have been a different story.
Juventus were up against it for much of the game but dogged defending (an honourable mention of De Ligt must be given) and clinical finishing once again provided them with the required points to stay unbeaten in Serie A.
Even now, when a less pragmatic and altogether attacking manager like Mauricio Sarri is at the helm, Juventus have still continued to grind with Sarriball in effect. It is already a habit for the Old Lady.
Barcelona might not get victories by one-goal margins often but the manner by which they have claimed some of their victories this season have been hard-fought and by no means pretty.
This weekend they had to come from behind to win against a Leganes side that sits at the bottom of the league. The hosts didn’t make it easy for them but Barcelona still came out with the victory that keeps them level with arch-rivals Real Madrid.
Valverde might be under pressure but the fact that he is still getting the job done has kept him working for so long.
This ability to last the pace and be able to get over the line due to willpower is a trait years of success will give to you. Because these players know what it means to be champions again and again, there is an amount of belief in that squad that is almost infallible.
For Barcelona though, it is slightly more complicated. Some factions in the media see it as a sense of decline for the club and simply feel “wins” are not just enough. Such is the expectation at Barcelona – you don’t just have to win but must do it properly and convincingly as well.
Six of last seven #Barça goals have come via set pieces, including both in Saturday's 2-1 win at Leganés. Valverde spoke of awful pitch, wind and defensive rival. But reliance on set pieces another sign of decline and lost identity… https://t.co/xCEgmAaikt
— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) November 25, 2019
For Juventus, it is more of a testament to the longevity of the team and the right recruitment – Juventus have the upper hand in that regard. For the past few seasons, they have purchased some of Europe’s elite talents on free transfers and added to the squad depth so that they remain competitive on all fronts.
They can boast of arguably the most balanced squad in Europe with sufficient cover in every position on the pitch which has allowed them to cope well with injuries to important players this season.
Alternatively, Barcelona do not have a squad as big as Juve’s probably due to their need to bring youngsters through the ranks and for this reason, injuries to key players have affected them but what they have is a close-knit group of players who have a near-telepathic understanding of each other, and this has ensured several victories for the Spanish giants.
This season, both teams are facing one of the most difficult title races in their recent history and they will need every last drop of that fighting spirit to get over the line.
Juventus are being run close by Inter Milan whose only loss has come at their hands, and Barcelona are in a six-team race although it is unlikely that will remain the case come the final months of the season.
With all the difficulty surrounding the league and their title races, these two teams still expect to be there or thereabouts in the latter stages of the Champions League and their respective domestic cups.
Such is the will of champions, the hunger and determination to win at all costs, in every competition, all the time and this is the trait of Barcelona and Juventus.