MY WIFE is my only witness that I predicted a 3-0 victory for Juventus over Barcelona in the first leg of their European Champions League quarter-final clash in Turin on Tuesday night.
When SuperSport pundits John Barnes, Sammy Kuffor and Benny McCarthy made their forecasts suggesting a draw or even a narrow win for Barcelona, I told my wife they all were in for a surprise. The only reason I refrained from tweeting my gut feeling was bias! I am a Barcelona fan and I didn't want my prediction to come to pass.
In my estimation, the signs of the fate that awaited Barca against Juve emerged last Saturday when they crumbled to a 2-0 defeat to Malaga in La Liga. With Real Madrid having dropped points in a 1-1 derby draw with Atletico Madrid earlier in the day, Barca had enough motivation to win in Malaga and draw level with Real at the top of the table. But they simply couldn't do it against a super-organized opponent.
In fact, Barca were more thoroughly outclassed by Malaga than the 2-0 scoreline suggested. I contrasted that with a Juve juggernaut that has kept steam-rolling all opposition consistently in the Serie A, and the only result that kept popping up in my crystal ball was a bashing for Barcelona, 3-0 to be exact.
Of course, the outcome in Turin could have been totally different had Andres Iniesta scored an equalizer from that glorious Lionel Messi pass midway into the first half after Paulo Dybala had given Juve an early lead. Unfortunately for Barca, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a reflex save and, moments after, Dybala doubled Juve's lead at the other end with a brilliant finish. At that point, I knew that my crystal ball was working to perfection. Giorgio Chiellini's third goal for Juve in the second half was inevitable.
The growing problem with Barca, as we have seen repeatedly in recent time, is that their famed forward line of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are finding it more difficult to penetrate well organized and disciplined opposition defenses. Malaga had a perfect plan in place to frustrate them and they succeeded so much that Neymar even bagged a red card. I knew Juventus would have been watching the Malaga display and Italian defenses have a reputation to be even meaner. It wasn't difficult to foresee a beating awaiting Barca in Turin.
The question on the lips of soccer fans worldwide is whether the Catalans can perform another miracle like they did in coming back from a 4-0 first leg deficit against Paris Saint Germain to win 6-5 on aggregate in the last round. As much as I want it, I can't see it happening. Lightening hardly strikes twice in the same spot and it is very unlikely that Barcelona will get out of the Old Lady's jail this time around. But then, I wish they will prove me wrong!
Check out my predictions for Wednesday's matches. Be warned, I provide no guarantees:
*Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Monaco
*Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid
*Atletico Madrid 2-0 Leicester City.