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One Champion To Another: Guardiola Hails Messi

Pep Guardiola hails former striker Lionel Messi after a 5-3 loss on aggregate, and Morata humbly relishes in his two goals to put Juventus through to the final.

The final in Berlin has been set for Serie A giants Juventus and Catalan super-power Barcelona. Juventus overcame Barcelona’s biggest rivals, Real Madrid, in Spain after winning on a 5-3 aggregate score. They proved to the world they will not be silenced and will do whatever it takes to secure another trophy during the 2014/15 season. The four semi-final games and thirteen goals that decided the final gave us some incredible moments that are worth a second look.

The laundry list of injured players Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola had to work around became the main concern when traveling to the Camp Nou to meet his former club in the first leg. Badstuber, Alaba, Ribery, and Robben were all on reserve, while Lewandoski played with a broken nose. Anything could happen. The Germans are known for doing the impossible and Thomas Muller emphasized this point more during an interview when he said “We’re FC Bayern. We won’t be afraid.”

However, Barcelona’s amazing form with MSN (Messi, Suarez, and Neymar) at the front could not be stopped by the back three Guardiola fielded. Jerome Boateng felt the full wrath of the attacking three when he was put on his back side by Lionel Messi's twists and turns, which resulted in a goal and a record breaking achievement for most goals scored in the Champions League.

Even Suarez’s impressive flick over his head drove the point farther home that Barcelona would kill off Munich with finesse.

The three forwards have contributed to twenty five of the twenty eight goals scored in the Champions League this season. A huge improvement from previous European cup performances, especially after a 7-1 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich two years ago.

Munich did hold their own against their Spanish opponents. It took 77 minutes for Barcelona to finally break through, but when they did, it didn’t stop. Even Pep Guardiola couldn’t help but complement his former striker. “We're lucky to live in his time as he is the best player of all time. I can compare him to Pele, and I am very proud of the years I spent with him.” Possibly the biggest compliment someone can receive, especially when coming from the mouth of the opposing manager. Guardiola and Bayern knew it would be hard to overcome a three goal deficit after one match, and credit was given where credit was due. He knew how difficult it would be to turn the score in their favor, and not being able to make Messi defend instead of attack was their ultimate downfall.

On the other hand, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti did not have the same appreciation that Guardiola had for Messi when speaking about Alvaro Morata and the two goals that sent Real Madrid packing. A Former Madrid, striker Alvaro Morata left the Bernabeu in silence when he netted what would ultimately be the deciding goal of the Madridistas exit from the Champions League. A low strike to the ground from a deflection was all it took for Morata to put Juventus ahead of his former club, and he did it with class.

Not celebrating either goal was his salute of respect to the club that helped him grow through their academy. Ancelotti did not see Morata as a player who could fit into the system of Real Madrid, and eventually sent the Spaniard to the club that would knock out Madrid from the final. At only twenty-two years old, he is becoming a rising, in-form striker relatable to Harry Kane of Tottenham and Alexandre Lacazette of Olympique Lyon. Though Morata’s former manager did not have much to say about the two goals he scored in each leg, his current manager, Massimiliano Allegri, put him on a pedestal in similar fashion to Guardiola per Messi. “He has grown from a physical and tactical point of view, because he’s a young kid. He has become an important player”. Morata’s success in domestic and European leagues has put him level with Arturo Vidal on goals scored and increased his market value to nearly €20 million with just one season in Italy.

The disappointing 1-1 draw in Madrid made a lot of supporters point fingers. As per usual in recent months, they were directed at Gareth Bale, the record breaking transfer turned sour in two short seasons. His minor impact this season has made him the butt of many jokes. Even more so than Iker Casillas and his basketball free throw style throw-in from the sideline. Bale has been a case of mistaken identity when trying to change and mold into the new formation that Madrid run under Ancelotti. Living in Spain and facing new, non-English opponents in a completely new league has been a hard adjustment that some may overlook. This was very noticeable during the final leg in Madrid. His lack of strength on the wings and misguidance of headed chances put all of the weight on the shoulders of Ronaldo and Benzema. The Welshman could be on his way out come the end of the season, and possibly back to England along with Carlo Ancelotti.

Juventus' Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon return to Germany again for the first time in a final since their 2006 World Cup win with Italy against France. Barcelona, a more frequent visitor to the final, are deemed the favorites to win, but cannot overlook their opponents' strength. The Champions League final will be held on June 6th, 2015 at the Olympiastadion Berlin.

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