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Barcelona 0-0 Juventus (0-3): 9 Talking Points

Champions League By: Okanga Okanga | 19/04/2017

Serie A champions cemented their place in the Champions League semi-final by holding FC Barclona to a goalless draw at the Camp Nou. Below are some of the take home points from that game.

Juventus prove to be the real test for La Liga dominance

Spanish teams have been the most dominant front in European club football for quite some time. This season alone, as many as 4 La Liga teams made it through to the round of 16 of the competition. The trophy has seemed all-destined for Spain, but with Juventus' showing so far - they also overcame Sevilla in the group stages - it is hard to rule out Italy's only remaining representative lifting the trophy. Champions are built on strong defences and Juventus have conceded a miserly 2 goals on their way so far and with an attack that is more than capable of delivering, who can rule them out. Watch out Madrid!

No second resurrection for Barcelona
Barcelona's remarkable comeback against PSG in the Champions League round of 16 was as much a miracle as it was an indictment on the part of the opposition, PSG. However, if their disciples had any hopes of a second resurrection for the Spanish titans after their first leg hammering in Turin Juventus were having none of it. Not even the Easter mood could make the Bianconeri yield the souls of Messi and co.
 
Quadrado and Mandzukic key to Juve system
Watching him over the two legs of this tie it was hard to conceive that Mario Mandzukic is actually a center-forward. The Croatian has been deployed on the left wing in Massimiliano Allegri's preferred 4-2-3-1 system, not just to make space for Gonzalo Higuain in the middle but because of his own unselfish ethics. Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado on the right gave Barcelona such a torrid time not only with their attacking forays but with their willingness to track back and run their lungs out. Safe to say they are key to the way the Old Lady deploy. 

Brazil's embarrassment of left-back riches
Philippe Luis is priceless for Atletico Madrid. Some say Marcelo is the best left-back in the world. Watching Real Madrid's 4-2 win against Bayern, who would question that? And then tonight, Alex Sandro. It's almost unbelievable. One nation, three world class left-backs. All three in the semi final of the Champions League and all three key for their sides. If there was a transfer window for national teams, someone would sign one of these specialists.

Higuain still short of big game striker pulse
Hard to question his commitment to the game. Gonzalo Higuain did pull his weight around as much as he could against an increasingly frustrated Barcelona side. What was missing yet again was that killer touch. If there is a reason why Juventus paid an Italian record transfer fee to snatch the Argentine from Napoli it is because of games like this. However, "Pipita" proved one thing over these two legs. He is not the man to win you the big games. 

Barca let Dani Alves go a little too early
Confined to more of a defensive role for most of the game, directly against an in-the-mood Neymar, you could see that Dani Alves still has those qualities that for a long time made him the best right-back in the world. His willingness to give everything was very much on show tonight. He is still a great player at 34, and Barca would know that they made a big mistake not keeping the Brazilian a little longer. 

A good measure of disciplined refereeing
After all the nonsense witnessed in recent matches involving Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona themselves there has been a strong outcry that UEFA referees tend to make mistakes that somehow just favour Spanish teams. If there was such a plot, the Dutchman in the middle tonight wasn't reading it. He let the game dictate it's own pace and was never cowed by the constant wolf-crying of the home side's players. If Barcelona were ever going to overturn this fixture as they did against PSG they just had to do it themselves.

This may have been the Balon d'or week of the year
Who would have thought of it? When Lionel Messi was crowned Balon d'Or winner for the fifth straight time in 2012 few would have tipped his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo - who was then on just one - to ever catch up. How things have changed. Ronaldo is now on four and if the events of the last two days are anything to go by may be on his way to equaling Messi's haul.

Messi started the year in arguably better form, but with Argentina's World Cup qualification and Messi's participation in it in such shatters and Madrid poised to take La Liga, plus the turn of events in the Champions League this week, the tide seems to be turning favourably towards the Portuguese yet again.

So much to play for in El Classico
of course there is always something to play for in El Classico, but after Barcelona's ouster tonight, the one big honour to fight for in Luis Enrique's departure season is La Liga. The next game for the Catalans is no less than at Real Madrid. Los Blancos would be looking to further dent Barcelona's ego while taking a significant leap towards the title. Barca hope to save real face and claw their way back into the race with a win. Expect a really feisty one between the super powers this weekend.
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