Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci stated Barcelona are not as strong as they were in 2015 when the Spaniards defeated the Italians in the Champions League final in Berlin.
Speaking ahead of the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Barca, the Juve veteran also said the Serie A giants have matured in quality in the last two years despite exits of key midfielders.
“It will be a different game this time around, because our defence has become even stronger,” said Bonucci. “And Barcelona are perhaps not as strong as in 2015, even if they are still a great team.”
“We have maybe lost a bit of physical strength in midfield compared to 2015 with the departure of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, but we have more quality. And we have matured a lot since then,” said Bonucci.
Vidal moved to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2015 for € 35 million, while Paul Pogba broke a world record in his €105 million return to Manchester United last summer.
Barca boss Luis Enrique, who was a year in charge when they defeated Juve in the 2015 final, also praised Juve’s defense this season and even described it as “spectacular”.
“We need to play good football,” said Enrique of their upcoming match against Juve. “Juventus’ defensive numbers in the Champions League this season are spectacular – up to the level of their history and worthy of a team in the quarter-finals”.
Juventus only conceded two goals in all of their eight Champions League games this season, one each to Sevilla and Lyon in the group stages and they held Porto scoreless over two legs in the Round of 16.
“But our target is the same as ever,” added the confident Enrique. “[We want to] play well, regardless of the venue and be better than a very strong opponent. Of course that is going to be very difficult.”