“unbeatable” Juventus can finally hand goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon an elusive UEFA Champions League title after making five-time winner Barcelona “cry” on its way to a spectacular semifinal exit on Wednesday.
Those were the headlines splashed across the front pages in Italy a day after rock-solid Juventus followed its impressive 3-0 first-leg win with a defensive masterclass that held the Spanish giant to a frustrating scoreless draw in Barcelona.
As Juve celebrated a 3-0 aggregate win at a stunned but appreciative Nou Camp, Barca — which beat Juve on its way to triumph in 2015 — crashed out after seeing stars Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar fail to find the net over 180 underwhelming minutes.
“Fly Juve Fly” was the front page headline on Italy’s biggest-selling sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, which included a vignette showing teary-eyed Barca star Neymar being comforted by former club defender Dani Alves.
Corriere dello Sport used the same dramatic picture of Alves and Neymar to illustrate the Brazilian starlet’s disappointment. “You made them cry,” screamed Corriere’s headline, while for Turin-based Tuttosport Juventus is simply “Unbeatable”.
Even Barca, outdone by Paulo Dybala’s super brace and Giorgio Chiellini’s 55th-minute header in Turin last week, had to agree.
“Compliments to @Juventusfc for reaching the semifinal,” the Catalan club wrote on its official Twitter page.
To which Juve replied: “Thank @FCBarcelona, it’s an honor to beat such a great opponent.”
Juve go into today’s semifinal draw along with Real Madrid, Monaco and Atletico Madrid — all of whom have faced Massimiliano Allegri’s men in recent European campaigns.
For Barca defender Gerard Pique, though, the Italians showed enough over the two legs to merit another tilt at the trophy they last won in 1996 with a 4-2 penalties victory over Ajax.
“Over the two legs, they were better than us so they deserve to go through to the semifinals. I think they can win the UCL this season,” said Pique.
Gazzetta suggested Juve’s virtually “impenetrable defense” should also give 39-year-old club legend Buffon the chance to add a trophy from Europe’s premier club competition to his long list of titles and accolades.
Currently on its way to a record sixth consecutive Serie A title and a third successive league and Cup double, Juve can also target an unprecedented club treble — last achieved by an Italian club by Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
“Henceforth, there’s no doubt: there’s a smell of the treble in the air,” wrote Gazzetta columnist Alessandro De Calo.
While Allegri applauded the achievement of keeping a clean sheet against Barca, he believes there’s more to come. “It’s almost unheard of for Barcelona to fail to score over two legs. But the lads need to realize they can do even better. We are slowly improving,” Allegri told Mediaset Premium.