- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

TURIN, Italy (AP) - Juventus had to wait two years for another chance against Barcelona.

It was worth it.

“It’s certainly a great night,” Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini said after his team beat Barcelona 3-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. “In comparison with two years ago, we wanted to prove to ourselves we had grown technically and tactically.”

In 2015, Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the final, winning the European Cup for the fifth time.

“We would pay to play that final in Berlin again with this conviction,” said Chiellini, who missed that match because of injury. “Now we have to get to another final, the one in Cardiff, hoping it will finish in another way.”

Juventus has brought in several players over the last two seasons, including Argentina internationals Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala. It was the latter who made the difference on Tuesday by scoring two goals.

The core of the Juventus team remains the same, with the ever-present BBC of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Chiellini in front of veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

And it’s that mix of experience and youth that could see Juventus win European soccer’s greatest club prize for the first time since 1996.

The reliance on both was typified when the 39-year-old Buffon made a crucial stop to deny Andres Iniesta. Moments later, the 23-year-old Dybala scored his second to give Juventus a 2-0 lead.

“I’m there to make saves,” Buffon said. “It was an important and difficult save because it’s a question of thousandths of a second. If I have the ambition of being considered still a great goalkeeper, I need to do these things.”

The Spanish press was more effusive about Buffon, calling the 2006 World Cup winner a “legend” and using the word “divine” to describe his save as they raved about him and Dybala being the orchestrators of Barcelona’s downfall.

Dybala has been adamant that he does not want to be compared to Lionel Messi, but that seems inevitable - especially after Tuesday’s match. One Italian sports newspaper ran the headline “The New Messi” above a picture of Dybala, while another went with “Messi who? The alien is Dybala.”

Another simply said “Immense Joya,” playing off Dybala’s nickname “La Joya” (jewel) and the word joy.

Dybala has improved by tremendously since joining from Palermo for 32 million euros (then $36 million) in June 2015.

“Paulo is a world class talent, more than anything because he has taken really quick steps,” Chiellini said. “He came to Juventus at 22 after one really great season at Palermo. In one and half years, almost two, we are talking of a player of international level.

“I think everyone will say in the next few years that after Neymar, Paulo is the most talented in Europe. He still has to grow a lot to be at Neymar’s level, but he has all the foundations to do so.”

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