It was dubbed as the reunion of two of the greatest footballers of this era, but ultimately the best footballer on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo could not make it ultimately because of his RT-PCR for COVID-19 came positive again. And for which, it was up to Lionel Messi to own the pitch all his own – ultimately Barcelona left Turin with a much-needed victory after the defeat at the El Clasico and chaos in the boardroom.

Ousmane Dembele and Messi, who scored from the penalty spot again, were on target as Barca defeated Juventus, who under Andrea Pirlo, still finding it tough to get into shape.

Playing for the first time since Josep Maria Bartomeu’s step down, Barca started sharply and went ahead inside 15 minutes thanks to Dembele’s second goal of the season.

Juve would feel hard done by after Alvaro Morata had three efforts ruled out for offside. It was that VAR again, and certainly, Ronald Koeman would not comment that the referees are always against Barcelona. A Morata hat-trick was denied by three offside decisions, which cost Juve dearly.

Pirlo started with two pivots – Bentacur and Rabiot like Koeman. Danilo pushed rather left and became a center-back to counter the press orchestrated by Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Ousmane Dembele. Barca maintained a highline defence and pushed the other higher.

Pirlo countered with their defenders paying back the same – the motive was to take out the pressing of Barca by exploiting spaces behind them and pass the ball through risky passing lanes to Federico Chiesa, Paulo Dybala, and Morata.

Bonucci made those line-breaking passes, for which Morata dropped deeper to collect with Kulusveski providing the width. If Kulusveski was occupied, then Rabboit would provide the depth. It helped Morata to break down the Barca defence.

With Danilo operating as the left center-back, it allowed Cuadrado to play the more offensive role and for which, Juventus attacked 45% of times from the right-hand side of the flank.

He provided effective crosses to Morarta from there and when Barca overloaded the right flank, the long passes were dished out to Chiesa.

This allowed Juve to pressurize Barca, but the Catalans had their answer to this: The double pivots were split and Frenkie de Jong became the sheer leader as the center-back with Sergi Roberto becoming conservative and Pique remaining in his usual position. Jordi Alba counter-pressed when Cuadrado was high-up and joined the midfield to help the others dominate the center of the park as the Barca shape changed to 3-4-3 with the ball at their feet.

Messi dropped deep because the spaces were there to occupy and thus Juve started to lose the grip over the game.

In the course of time, surprisingly, Messi was left free and Pedri roamed from the angles to aid him and dictate the game.

Barca twice came close to taking the lead inside the opening two minutes, Wojciech Szczesny pawing away former Juve midfielder Miralem Pjanic’s powerful drive before Antoine Griezmann lashed against the post from 10 yards.

However, they were rewarded for their bright start in the 14th minute when Dembele’s shot from outside the penalty area looped over Szczesny after taking a significant deflection off Chiesa.

Pirlo searched for goals and it left more spaces – his pivots pressed high enough. Szczesny denied Dembele and Griezmann in quick succession as Juve – who had just two shots in the opening 45 minutes – contained Barca to a one-goal lead at the interval.

When Demiral picked up a second caution for a late challenge on Pjanic, the hope of a Juventus comeback was lost.

Messi ensured Barca extended their unbeaten away run in the UEFA Champions League group stage to 11 games, slotting home from the spot after the substitute Ansu Fati had been brought down in the area by Federico Bernardeschi.

Pirlo was going pretty well with his tactics until and unless his efforts were backfired by VAR and lack of intensity in the final third. As time progressed, the intensity was gone, the fluid nature of Barca motored the game.

More often, the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo is overshadowed in Turin, but time and again it is evident that Ronaldo is the heart and soul of this Juve unit and the ultimate leader. Clearly, Chiesa did not have the cutting-edge like CR7 to dominate the left flank and take on the resistance put up by the back three of Barca in the second half. Neither anyone could find the soul of Dybala!

Someone was needed to cut-back from the left and split open the defence or try and a long-range shot from the angle who else but Ronaldo could offer such!

The project of Pirlo is under construction, as it seemed from last night’s match, and he would able to change it with CR7 given the role of a leader.