Before Giorgio Chiellini was ruled out of the UEFA Champions League final with a torn calf muscle told UEFA.com about his love for defending, Juventus’s chances in Berlin, and what they needed to do to stop FC Barcelona.
How do Juventus go about stopping that Barcelona attack?
“We will prepare the same way we prepared for the game with Real [in the semi-finals]. But, ultimately, [Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez] are not the only ones in the team. There is a great squad around them and other players create passages of play for the forwards to do damage, a lot of damage. But I think that with the qualities we have at our disposal we can certainly contain them. There will be no man-marking for Messi, Neymar or Suárez. The only way to stop them is with the whole team.”
What was the difference between Juventus and Real Madrid CF in the semi-final?
“I think we were more compact and better organised than Real and in the end we were rewarded for that. We were up against a team with great individuals and we knew that. We were good at limiting their impact. We let our best attributes shine through, and in the end our organisation as a team made the difference.Over two legs, it is clear you also need a bit of luck. They hit the bar in the first leg, but I think that all in all, over the two legs, we deserved to go through to the final.”
Did your attitude and team spirit make a difference?
“It definitely had a big influence because being 1-0 down at Real Madrid and knowing you have to chase the game is never easy. Even in the most difficult moments we felt we could score and get back into the game – but knew there would be moments where we had to suffer and try to stifle their qualities. I think we have really grown in terms of awareness in recent months, and every round has been a key step in many aspects of our development.”
How would you sum up this Juventus team?
“I think this Juventus is a very hard side to beat. We’ve always had quality but this growth has come step by step. In recent years we haven’t made great inroads in the Champions League and we didn’t start the group stage that well this season either. We’ve grown a lot since then. The team have developed and we’ve turned it around.”
After two defeats in the first three group games [at Club Atlético de Madrid and Olympiacos FC], did you still believe you could make the final?
“At that moment you don’t think about the final, you just think about getting through that stage. They are worlds apart. The group is one situation, from the last 16 onwards is another tournament. Anything can happen in knockout football. “
How would you describe your influence in the dressing room?
“Everybody contributes their experience and strengths to the team differently. My physical qualities on the pitch are different from others. I try to use my attributes to help the team. A special brand of football has definitely been created here, not just this season, but over recent years.
The group has grown and we are a very tight-knit group. Everybody contributes something to the team and I think the Champions League final is the result of this consistent growth both individually and as a unit.”
With you and Gianluigi Buffon at the back Juve have plenty of defensive experience. How important is that?
“It’s important to have a group with experience. I think we have that with the Italians in the team who form the backbone. Alongside that experienced group, other people have joined who have clearly contributed to raising the level of the team with their experience, quality and individual attributes.”
What makes Italian sides so strong tactically and technically in the decisive stages?
“It is the Italian attitude, history and culture which place greater emphasis on certain things. In recent years, unfortunately, we did not manage to keep up with the times. This season we have a great opportunity to show that Italian football, with all its pros and cons, can also compete with the very best.”
What aspects of defending give you the greatest satisfaction?
“Winning a duel, preventing a goal, stopping the opposition from scoring, becoming annoying for opposition strikers because they struggle to get the better of you and score against you.”
Are Juventus underdogs? Would Juve enjoy that prospect?
“I think that when you reach the final, being an underdog or not does not count for a lot. There is the pressure, a lot of pressure, and the will to win as well. So it will certainly be a very difficult match in which small details will be important, meaning you have to be even more careful.”