05.06.2015 19:35 - in: UCL S

      Focus on Barcelona

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      Juventus.com analyses 18 Blaugrana players ahead of Saturday evening’s Champions League final in Berlin.

      Name: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
      Age: 23
      Position: Goalkeeper

      Ter Stegen took up the number one jersey vacated by Victor Valdes after signing from Borussia Monchengladbach last summer.

      The 23-year-old, however, has assumed the role of cup keeper this term, playing every game of Barcelona’s run to this year’s Champions League final and all but one of their victorious Copa del Rey campaign.

      Stegen, who is also a fully-fledged German international, made his Blaugrana debut during a 1-0 Champions League Group F win over APOEL Nicosia at the Nou Camp in September.  

      Alongside Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, the future star has kept six clean sheets, more than any other shotstopper in this year’s European competition.

      Name: Claudio Bravo
      Age: 32
      Position: Goalkeeper

      Thirty-two-year-old Bravo also made his way to the Nou Camp in June 2014, joining from fellow top flight outfit Real Sociedad.

      Born in Chile, the goalkeeper has taken up the mantle of first choice in La Liga, playing 37 league matches as Luis Enrique’s men secured their 23rd domestic title last month.

      Bravo has represented his national side in two World Cup tournaments and three Copa America competitions, and with 89 caps to his name, has made the most appearances in the history of La Roja.

      Following a string of consistent performances this term, he picked up the Trofeo Ricardo Zamora, an award handed out to the goalkeeper who has registered the lowest “goals-to-games” ratio over the course of the campaign.

      Name: Dani Alves
      Age: 32
      Position: Right-back

      Brazilian international Alves has been at the Nou Camp for the past seven seasons, securing a multitude of medals in the process.

      The 32-year-old, who became the third-most expensive defender of all time when he left Sevilla for Barcelona in 2008, was part of the Blaugrana’s historic treble-winning squad a year later, before going on to claim a further 15 honours.

      Alves’ swashbuckling playing style has drawn praise from all over the globe, with the full-back adept in attacking areas as well as performing his defensive duties.

      No stranger to a yellow card, he has been booked six times in the Champions League this season, a statistic that cannot be bettered by any other player.

      Name: Gerard Pique
      Age: 28
      Position: Centre-back

      Youth graduate Pique returned to the Blaugrana in 2008 following four seasons with Premier League giants Manchester United.

      A strong, imposing and technical centre-back, the 28-year-old forged an impressive partnership with club legend Carles Puyol before the veteran called time on his career last summer.

      Pique has also shown his attacking prowess this term, netting seven goals in all competitions, with his sole Champions League strike coming in a 1-0 triumph against APOEL Nicosia on Matchday 1.

      The defender will be out to keep up his 100 per cent success rate in Champions League finals when facing the Bianconeri this Saturday.

      Name: Javier Mascherano
      Age: 30
      Position: Centre-back/Defensive midfielder

      Tenacious tackler Mascherano has enjoyed a career renaissance since switching from his customary position of defensive midfielder.

      After making his professional debut in his native Argentina, the 30-year-old moved to Premier League outfit West Ham alongside Bianconeri forward Carlos Tevez in a double swoop. But while the latter succeeded at Upton Park, it was at Liverpool where the former made a name for himself.

      Now a stalwart of the Blaugrana backline, Mascherano is coming to the end of his fifth season at the Nou Camp, a stint which has seen him claim every club trophy under the sun.

      From 2008 to 2011, the fourth-most capped La Albiceleste player of all time served as his national side’s skipper, with team-mate Lionel Messi then being handed the armband.

      Name: Thomas Vermaelen
      Age: 29
      Position: Centre-back

      Belgian international Vermaelen has endured a frustrating first season blighted by a recurring hamstring problem.

      Having now overcome his ailments, the former Arsenal captain was able to make his full Barcelona debut in a 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruna at the Nou Camp in late May before making way for Douglas on 63 minutes.

      The 29-year-old, who also spent three campaigns in Ajax’s famed youth academy from 2000 to 2003, is a versatile central defender able to play at left-back.

      Vermaelen’s no nonsense approach and pace saw him become a firm fan’s favourite during his time with the Gunners, and in his first campaign he was named in the Premier League’s Team of the Year for 2009/10.

      Name: Jeremy Mathieu
      Age: 31
      Position: Centre-back

      Thirty-one-year-old defender Mathieu became one of Enrique’s first signings when he swapped Valencia for Barcelona in July 2014.

      With 40 appearances in all competitions, he has proved a key member of the Barcelona rearguard, filling in for Pique or Mascherano whenever they have been absent.

      After opening his goalscoring account in a 4-0 Copa del Rey success over Elche in early 2015, he then netted in consecutive victories versus Real Madrid (2-1) and Celta Vigo (1-0) in March to hand his side the initiative in this year’s title race.

      On the international scene, Mathieu progressed through France’s youth set-up before making his full debut against USA in Paris back in November 2011.

      Name: Jordi Alba
      Age: 26
      Position: Left-back

      Even after being released by Barcelona at a young age, speed merchant Alba returned to the club following Spain’s victorious Euro 2012 campaign.

      Despite his customary position of left-back, the 26-year-old, who reinvigorated his career at fellow top flight outfit Valencia, has also featured further forward in a more attacking role.

      Alba has already picked up winners’ medals for two La Liga championships, a Copa del Rey and the Supercopa de Espana, and he’ll be eager to add the Champions League on Saturday evening.

      Earlier this week, the full-back agreed an extension to his contract that will tie him down until 2020.

      Name: Adriano
      Age: 30
      Position: Left-back

      Back in July 2010, Adriano followed in the footsteps of Alves and joined the Blaugrana from Sevilla.

      Although he has been frequently used as a back-up full-back, first to Eric Abidal and now Alba, the 30-year-old has established himself as a useful squad member.

      Blessed with ambidexterity, he has been able to fill in as either a defender or midfielder on both flanks for Barcelona.

      After enjoying a ten-year stint with the Brazilian national side, a spell which saw him win the Copa America, Adriano hung up his boots for the Selecao in 2013.

      Name: Xavi
      Age: 35
      Position: Midfielder

      Club captain Xavi is preparing to bow out of a glittering career in the famous blue and red jersey.

      The 35-year-old, who is set to sign for Qatari side Al Sadd when his deal runs out at the end of the season, is considered one of the best central midfielders of all time, possessing incredible vision and passing ability.

      After progressing through the La Masia academy, Xavi made his debut in 1998 and hasn’t looked back since, winning an incredible 24 honours at Barcelona and both the World Cup and European Championships (twice) with the Spanish national side.

      If he features in Saturday’s Champions League final, the playmaker would be making history for the most all-time appearances in Europe’s elite competition. He currently shares top spot alongside Iker Casillas on 150.

      Name: Andres Iniesta
      Age: 31
      Position: Central midfielder

      For more than a decade, Iniesta has been Xavi’s partner in crime with the duo causing havoc for a plethora of teams all over the globe.

      And when the latter leaves for pastures new next week, it’ll be the former’s turn to take the captain’s armband for the foreseeable future and lead Barcelona into another era.

      Iniesta is aiming to triumph in his fourth Champions League final, having inspired the Blaugrana to overturn a first-half deficit and defeat Arsenal 2-1 in 2006, while also impressing during the victories against Manchester United in both 2009 and 2011.  

      Did you know? The 31-year-old’s extra-time strike versus Holland in the 2010 World Cup final secured Spain’s first and only success in the historic tournament.

      Name: Sergio Busquets
      Age: 26
      Position: Defensive midfielder

      Holding midfielder Busquets breaks up play likes it’s nobody’s business.

      The 26-year-old has been a mainstay of the team ever since bursting onto the scene in 2008, displacing fellow anchorman Yaya Toure who joined Manchester City a couple of years later.

      With strength, aerial ability and excellent passing range, Busquets is normally one of the first names on both the Blaugrana teamsheet and that of the Spanish national team.

      The Sabadell-born man will be tasked with keeping the likes of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio quiet once the first whistle sounds in Berlin.

      Name: Ivan Rakitic
      Age: 27
      Position: Central midfielder

      Former Basel and Schalke star Rakitic signed for Barcelona last summer, taking up the number four shirt left by Cesc Fabregas in the process.

      The Croatian international, who is a hard-working player by trade, keeps the team’s tempo up with incisive play and ball possession, leading him to garner praise from both the press and supporters.

      The 27-year-old put in a man-of-the-match display by skippering Sevilla to Europa League glory in May 2014, as they defeated Benfica 4-2 on penalties at Juventus Stadium.

      Rakitic bagged the first Champions League goal of his career in a 1-0 last 16 second leg win over Manchester City, allowing the Blaugrana to progress to the quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate.

      Name: Sergi Roberto
      Age: 23
      Position: Midfielder

      Another product of the Barcelona youth academy, Roberto made his full debut in a 5-1 Copa del Rey triumph over AD Ceuta at the age of 18.

      Now 23, he has been a bit-part player as of late, only making 28 further appearances for the club in five seasons.

      The main factor behind his absence is down to injuries and the magnitude of the task he has to face in trying to displace the current midfield.

      Back in December, Roberto netted his third goal for the Blaugrana in an 8-1 Round of 32 cup rout against SD Huesca at the Nou Camp.

      Name: Pedro Rodriguez
      Age: 27
      Position: Winger

      Pedro is capable of playing on either wing or flitting just behind the main striker.

      The 27-year-old, who dons the number seven jersey previously worn by David Villa, recently put pen to paper on a contract that keeps him at Barcelona until 2019.

      The Spanish international has featured over 300 times for the Blaugrana, bagging close to a centenary of goals in the process.

      During the 2009/10 campaign, Pedro became the first player to score in six different competitions, a record that was later equalled by Messi.

      Name: Lionel Messi
      Age: 27
      Position: Forward

      Four-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is one of the most feared forwards on the planet.

      The Argentine assassin is looking to become the first player to score in three Champions League finals, having previously rippled the net in 2009 and 2011.

      Lauded in certain quarters as the greatest footballer of all time, the 27-year-old continues to astound with his fantastic attributes and extraordinary ability to win the biggest of games all on his own.

      Messi, who has been earmarked as the Barcelona man to watch in Berlin, currently acts as the focal point of an exciting attacking trident which has caused teams all over Spain and Europe plenty of problems this campaign.

      Name: Luis Suarez
      Age: 28
      Position: Striker

      Flanking Messi on the right-hand side is striker Suarez, a skillful individual able to dazzle opponents with his fleet-footed nature.

      Having arrived from Liverpool on the back of a term where he picked up the Premier League Player of the Season award, the 28-year-old has continued his fine form with the Blaugrana too, contributing 24 strikes and 17 assists in all competitions.

      Suarez’s versatility means he can adapt to play anywhere across the front three of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation, making him an asset to Enrique’s squad.

      The Uruguayan international, who is his country’s all-time top scorer, is also a dead-ball specialist and frequently tests opposition goalkeepers from long distance.

      Name: Neymar
      Age: 23
      Position: Forward/Winger

      Completing the trio is Brazil captain Neymar, who has netted an incredible 43 goals in 62 appearances for the five-time World Cup winners.

      A tricky and pacy customer, the 23-year-old possesses all the tools to hurt opponents, and as far as his career projection goes, the sky is the limit.

      The attacking sensation has been in sparkling form of late and recently bagged the second in Barcelona’s 3-1 Copa del Rey final triumph over Athletic Bilbao in May.

      Neymar is the third Barcelona player to score nine or more goals in a single Champions League season after Rivaldo (1999/2000) and Messi (2008/09, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2014/15).

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