Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar could find no way past the experienced defense of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini as Barcelona failed to score in 180 minutes of its Champions League quarterfinal against Juventus, which is beginning to dream of the treble.
And when Barcelona did get through, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was on hand to prevent anything from going in as Juventus drew 0-0 at Camp Nou on Wednesday to progress to the semifinals 3-0 on aggregate.
“I’m very happy with what the guys are doing,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “Tonight they all had a great match, we could have played for an entire day without conceding.”
After last week’s 3-0 victory in Turin, it was Juve’s attackers who were drawing the plaudits specifically Paulo Dybala, who scored twice.
On Wednesday, Juventus put on a defensive masterclass to ensure there would be no miraculous comeback from Barcelona, which beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the last round to become the first team to ever overturn a 4-0 loss in the competition.
Alex Sandro and former Barcelona right back Dani Alves started alongside Bonucci and Chiellini, while Barzagli was brought on for the final 16 minutes.
Buffon had to make just one save all match as Juventus defended as a team, with the forwards tracking back too _ something which has been its strength under Allegri.
“We’re delighted, we’ve done a great thing,” Dybala said. “It’s a fantastic night for us.
“It wasn’t easy, also because of past matches and Barcelona’s history of comebacks. We were solid, keeping a clean sheet against them is no mean feat.”
Juventus has matured since its Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2015.
Allegri has instilled in his players an unwavering focus and a duty to never let their guard down. With seconds remaining at Camp Nou, Bonucci asked Messi to swap shirts once the final whistle had gone. The Juventus defender was immediately reprimanded by Chiellini, who hit him on the arm to admonish him for relaxing for a few seconds, even with the job all but completed.
It is this discipline which has seen Juventus win five successive league titles, three of them under Antonio Conte.
There was widespread anguish among Juventus fans when Conte left to coach the Italian national team and he was replaced by Allegri, who had been fired by AC Milan just a few months previously.
But Allegri guided the team to its first Champions League final in 12 years as well as back-to-back league and cup doubles. Juventus is again on course to win Serie A _ where it has an eight-point advantage _ and is in the final of the Italian Cup against Lazio. After beating Barcelona, there is a very real sense that Juventus could emulate Inter Milan and win the treble.
“We haven’t achieved anything yet, this match wasn’t a goal but a step towards the final in Cardiff,” Allegri said. “So now we can’t relax at all, we have an important league match against Genoa on Sunday, we are in a key part of the season.”
Allegri believes his team can still improve, and Buffon agrees.
“It was a clear and unmistakable victory, against a team which I still think is the strongest in the world,” said the veteran Juventus captain. “It’s the right result and down to us as we have grown in conviction and personality: we are a team which is more and more European. Beating Barcelona gives us more assurances, which against other teams we wouldn’t maybe have felt.”
Juventus will find out its semifinal opponent on Friday, when the Champions League draw could see it pitted against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Monaco.
“Who don’t we want to meet in the semifinals? Ask the others, who probably now won’t want to meet us,” Bonucci said. “We’re a frightening proposition and a match for anyone.”