It's the culmination of a long and exciting season as Juventus take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final (live, Saturday, 2:45 p.m. ET on FOX).
Juventus have used a number of tactical alignments in their path to get to the UCL final, but it's been Max Allegri's switch to a skewed 4-2-3-1 formation that's seen them be at their most successful. The new "five star Juve" incorporated the talents of Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado and Miralem Pjanic, and Allegri has used some variation of that setup for most of Juventus' most important matches of the second half of the season.
Allegri will likely trot out a variety of that 4-2-3-1 against Real Madrid, but Juan Cuadrado will probably drop to the bench to make room for defender Andrea Barzagli. Here's how we expect Juventus to line up against Real:
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Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Gigi Buffon has only missed 90 minutes of Juventus' Champions League campaign so far. The 39-year-old is still at the top of his game, and he's been a key component of the defense that's conceded just four goals in Champions League this entire campaign.
Buffon's lost two Champions League finals in a Juventus shirt, and barring some sort of tragedy, he'll be the man between the sticks for the Bianconeri on Saturday. Should anything go wrong with the legendary Italian though, backup keeper Neto will be the man to step in and try to lead Juve to victory.
Centerback/Right back: Andrea Barzagli
Andrea Barzagli's role in Juventus' team is a special one. In the evolution of Max Allegri's 4-2-3-1 formation this season, Barzagli was initially left on the bench in favor of Dani Alves at right back, with Juan Cuadrado deployed in front of him. As Juve progressed into the latter rounds, Barzagli came back into the team as a hybrid centerback/right back, with Dani Alves ahead of him.
Against Real Madrid, 36-year-old Barzagli is expected to reprise that centerback/right back role once again, tucking inside when Juve don't have the ball, and taking a wider position when they're in possession. If, for any reason he's unable to play from the start, Swiss fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner could receive the call in his stead.
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Centerback: Leonardo Bonucci
The leader of Juventus' defense, and their deepest-lying playmaker, Leonardo Bonucci is one of the first names on Max Allegri's teamsheet. The 29-year-old central defender has been one of Europe's best this year across all competitions, and he might be the most important piece of Juve's vaunted backline. He's the organizer in the heart of the Bianconeri defense, and his incredible passing range is one of the most important components of their attack. Unless something drastic takes place, he'll be there from the start against Real Madrid. If, for some reason, he's unable to go, former Bayern defender Mehdi Benatia or promising Italian centerback Daniele Rugani will step in to replace him.
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Centerback: Giorgio Chiellini
The Beast to Leonardo Bonucci's Beauty, Giorgio Chiellini represents the more physical, less refined side of the many-headed Juventus defensive juggernaut. An impeccable reader of the game and ferocious tackler, Chiellini isn't without skill, but he's definitely no Bonucci. There aren't many better man-markers in the game though, and Juve depend on 'King Kong' and his incredible passion on the pitch. If he isn't in the lineup, he'll be a huge miss, but will probably be replaced by one of the aforementioned Benatia or Rugani.
Right wingback: Dani Alves
Dani Alves has come alive in Champions League this season. He's been used both as a traditional fullback and as a wingback in Allegri's team throughout the season, and he'll likely line up further forward once again against Madrid. He's truly found his feet with the defensive solidity of Andrea Barzagli to count on behind him, and he's been nearly unstoppable going forward on the right. If he isn't able to make the first XI against Madrid, Juan Cuadrado or Stephan Lichtsteiner will probably get the call.
Left wingback: Alex Sandro
If it weren't for Brazilian compatriot Marcelo, lining up for Real Madrid on Saturday, Alex Sandro would be taking all the plaudits as Europe's best left back this season. It hasn't mattered if he's played as a fullback or a wingback, Sandro's been a monster down the left for Juventus, and it'll take a minor catastrophe to see Sandro out of the lineup on Saturday. If somehow Sandro is prevented from making the team, Kwadwo Asamoah will likely be the man to replace him down the left.
Center midfield: Sami Khedira
Sami Khedira's not only found regular playing time at Juventus, he's managed to stay relatively healthy for long stretches since moving from Real Madrid. If he's fit to play, he'll probably start in midfield once more for Juventus against his old side. As one of the two deeper-lying midfielders in Allegri's 4-2-3-1, Khedira's tasked with protecting the back four as well as keeping play ticking over in midfield, and he's thrived in that role this season. If he picks up a knock, Turin native Claudio Marchisio will step in, but don't be surprised to see the Italian international step in for Khedira from the start, depending on Allegri's tactical plan.
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Center midfield: Miralem Pjanic
It took a bit for him to settle into Juventus' midfield, but since then Miralem Pjanic has established himself as one of the Bianconeri's most vital players. Moved into a deeper midfield two, Pjanic has thrived in his role as regista for Juve. He dictates the pace of the game with his passing ability, and he's shown a real bite on the defensive side of the ball as well this season. Should he be unable to make the starting lineup on Saturday he'll likely be replaced by Claudio Marchisio. If Allegri doesn't go for 'Principino', Venezuelan Tomas Rincon or Italian international Stefano Sturaro will step in to do the job.
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Attacking midfield: Paulo Dybala
There's no direct replacement for Paulo Dybala in Juventus' team, and he's probably the Bianconeri's most important player, period. Along with Miralem Pjanic he's the team's creative inspiration, and he has a special role in making the Turin side tick offensively. Starting behind Gonzalo Higuain as the No. 10, Dybala has the freedom of the pitch to roam, and he'll pop up anywhere and everywhere as the game ebbs and flows. Should he be unable to start the match, it's not readily apparent how Allegri will
Left wing: Mario Mandzukic
Pjanic and Dybala may be Juventus' creative inspiration, but their entire season took on a new life when Max Allegri moved Mario Mandzukic to the left wing. A central striker for the vast majority of his professional career, the 30-year-old Croatian veteran has been reinvented out on the left. His work rate on the defensive side of the ball has been breathtaking throughout the season, while his physical ability has provided mismatches against smaller fullbacks all season. Without injured winger Marko Pjaca, Mandzukic's ability to dominate on the left has become even more important, and there's no direct replacement for him off Juventus' bench. If he can't start, it will probably mean a tactical reshuffle for Max Allegri, with Juan Cuadrado likely coming in for the big man.
Juventus broke their transfer record to sign Gonzalo Higuain, and so far he's been worth every penny. He's piled the goals in for Juventus, and overcame a hurdle of sorts when he finally came up big in the knockout rounds once more, netting twice for Juve against Monaco. He's far and away Juve's best attacker, and the only way he won't play from the start is if he's injured. Should he pick up a knock, Mario Mandzukic will likely move into his place as central striker, with Juan Cuadrado coming into the first XI in his place.