Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 at home in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal matchup. Paulo Dybala grabbed a brace, and his compatriot Lionel Messi came away empty-handed, but what did we learn from this clash?
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Allegri won the tactical battle
Massimiliano Allegri clearly took notes from PSG's two legs against Barcelona. His team struck the perfect balance between pressing the Blaugrana and keeping them from establishing a good rhythm in possession, sitting deep and stymieing Barça's possession play, and attacking with intent when they did get the ball. Barcelona just couldn't get out of their own half for the first 10 minutes of the match, and they never recovered from going down early. It was a masterclass from Allegri, in stark contrast to Luis Enrique's failures on the other side.
Paulo Dybala was the star of the show
There was only one Argentine star on the pitch as Juve took on Barcelona, and it wasn't Lionel Messi. Paulo Dybala put Juve ahead with two early goals, and he didn't stop working for 80 minutes as Juve extended their lead and labored to keep Barcelona off the scoresheet. Dybala's finishing was inch perfect on the day, and he was a constant threat on the ball. Dybala's been compared with Messi over and over again in his young career, and up against his countryman for the first time, he somehow surpassed expectations.
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The Javier Mascherano experiment did not work
Luis Enrique was always going to struggle to replace the suspended Sergio Busquets' influence in the middle of the pitch, and one of the biggest questions ahead of this match was who he'd pick to step into that role. Lucho initially lined Barcelona up in their typical 4-3-3 formation and went with Javier Mascherano as the holding midfielder, but it wasn't a successful shift in the slightest. Mascherano was decent defensively, as would be expected, but he couldn't come close to matching Busquets' tempo-setting ability. Barça's midfield was all but nonexistent, and it took a switch back to a three-back system for Barcelona to even look like threatening Juve.
Gonzalo Higuain didn't get on the scoresheet but he did his job
Gonzalo Higuain was bought to score goals. Juventus paid a record fee for him to do that, but against Barcelona, he wasn't able to find the back of the net. That's ok, though, because Higuain did exactly what Max Allegri asked him to, running his socks off, pressuring the Barcelona defenders, and working tirelessly on both sides of the ball for the benefit of the team. He's not just a poacher — he's an all-around team player — and he showed those qualities against Barça.
Jeremy Mathieu was emblematic of Barcelona's issues
Jeremy Mathieu was awful against Juve. Lined up at left back against Juan Cuadrado, he was torn apart time and time again, and he probably shouldn't have even been on the pitch to start. Barcelona were all over the place defensively as a unit, and uncharacteristically poor in possession and Mathieu was the worst of the bunch. It's no surprise he was hauled off at halftime, but he wasn't the only player to come out of this match with a blemish on his record.
Gianluigi Buffon is the ageless wonder
This game could've been a lot different if Buffon didn't come up huge to deny Andres Iniesta early. A goal there could and would have changed the whole complexion of the match — and the entire tie — but Buffon came up big once again. He didn't do a single thing wrong against Barcelona, and at 39 years old, he looks like he's fine to keep going until 45.