Barcelona had a score to settle with Juventus, after the Italians knocked the Catalans out of the Champions League last season, and settle the score they surely did. Led by Lionel Messi who scored two goals and was crucial in the buildup to the other one, Barcelona outscored Juventus by three goals. While the difference on the pitch might not have been as stark as the score suggested, Barcelona showed deadliness in front of goal that was missing when the two sides last met.
Barcelona started the 2017-18 Champions League campaign kicking-off from midfield, and just three minutes in launched a dangerous counter attack led by Ousmane Dembele, who was making his first Barcelona start. Dembele quickly showcased his speed, but could only win a corner kick which Juventus managed to clear.
Two minutes later, the visitors threatened from distance, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen managed to tip the ball behind goal. Somehow, though, referee Damir Skomina missed the young German’s crucial touch and no corner kick was awarded.
In the early going, Barcelona’s play in attack left much to be desired as Juventus did well to disrupt Barcelona’s play. Neither side wanted to risk too much, with Juventus looking especially organized defensively. With Barcelona misplacing many passes, Juventus were able to launch quick counter attacks. The Catalan defenders managed to keep Juventus’ attempts to the side, but ter Stegen still had to make a pair of good saves.
While ter Stegen had to be on his game from the opening minutes, Barcelona didn’t test Gianluigi Buffon until the 20th minute. Andres Iniesta won a free kick in a very dangerous area, from which Lionel Messi attempted a cheeky shot below the wall. The shot was blocked, but the rebound fell to Luis Suarez who powered a shot on goal, but Buffon made an excellent save.
The middle part of the first half featured plenty of broken play from both sides and neither team managed to get anywhere near the opposing goalkeeper. Even though Barcelona looked like the more dangerous team on the pitch, Juventus’ defense, especially on the very edge of the penalty area, allowed almost no room to make any plays. Juventus still relied on quick counters in attack, but Barcelona defended well, even at the cost of a yellow card, like Nelson Semedo displayed around the half hour mark.
But even a brilliant defense, like the one Juventus have, can make mistakes, and Mattia De Sciglio made a big one in the 38th minute, sending a poor pass across the area where Dembele made the interception. But right as he was setting up for the shot, he had the ball cleared away.
In the 41st minute, Massimiliano Allegri was forced to make his first substitution. De Sciglio was visibly struggling, oftentimes clenching his right leg, and was replaced by Stefano Sturaro. In the final moments of the half, Juventus pinned Barcelona back for the first time since the opening 10 minutes, and created a couple of half-chances, but ter Stegen wasn’t tested, mostly due to some heroics from Nelson.
It appeared that the teams would go into the break deadlocked at one, but Messi had other plans. Barcelona broke through the Juventus midfield in numbers, with Messi leading the charge. On the run, Messi played a quick one-two with Suarez, leaving the Argentine in space. Buffon had the near post covered to perfection, but Messi went to the far side, placing the ball just inside the post for his first goal against Buffon, silencing critics who held that “feat” against him.
Quickly after, Skomina whistled for halftime. While it wasn’t a brilliant half by Barcelona, the Catalans played like a team on offense and on defense. The right side with Dembele and Semedo showed tons of potential, on both ends of the pitch. Juventus did a very good job isolating Messi, but as soon as the Argentine was allowed a little bit of space Barcelona made Juventus pay.
After the break, which brought no substitutions, Juventus tried to catch Barcelona flat-footed. Paulo Dybala was left with a shot from an excellent position after a breakdown in defense, but his accuracy wasn’t on the same level as it was in the last meeting between the two teams.
Barcelona looked to reply quickly to add some insurance. In the 52nd minute Messi fired from over 20 yards out, cannoning the shot off the post. The ball ricochet into Buffon before bouncing back just wide of the post. But Barcelona managed to double the lead four minutes later. Moments after picking up a card for wanting a yellow for a foul on him, Messi went on a long run down the right side. Messi’s pass into the area was destined for an easy tap in, but Sturaro managed to clear. The clear, however, went to Ivan Rakitić, who was left with an easy finish to double Barcelona’s lead.
Barcelona continued to attack, creating a good chance from a free kick, but Buffon was in perfect position to make the save. Juventus then made their second substitution, with Bernardeschi replacing Bentancur.
With Juventus committing more men forward, Barcelona found more space in attack. Barcelona found it much easier to create chances and moments after Saurez missed a good chance, Messi added to Barcelona’s lead with a brilliant move outside of the area to create space for the shot before sending Buffon the wrong way from the edge of the area.
In quick succession, Ernesto Valverde made two changes, first Sergi Roberto took the place of Dembele, who was largely anonymous in the second half as he was mostly very isolated on the right wing. Then Paulinho took the place of Rakitić. In the 79th minute Barcelona seemingly added one more goal to their total, but the goal was eventually ruled out for offside, though replays showed the play was very close.
After taking the commanding lead, Barcelona allowed Juve some chances. First, in the 81st minute, Dybala fired a dangerous shot, but ter Stegen made another excellent save. But the best opportunity came through a Medhi Benatia header. Ter Stegen was beaten, but Gerard Pique blocked the shot on the line a cleared the ball away.
With the game decided and ten minutes left on the clock, neither side showed much urgency on the pitch. Both managers made one more personnel change, with Andre Gomes joining the pitch for Barcelona. Juventus were continued their search for the consolidation goal, but the score-line remained the same, with Barcelona running out deserved winners of a much anticipated match of the opening round of the new Champions League season.