Paulo Dybala and Juventus were not the least bit intimidated by the visit from Lionel Messi and Barcelona.

Tuesday brought us a surprising and exciting result, with Juventus not backing down from Barcelona at all in the Champions League quarterfinal. In fact, the Italians took the game to their opponents early and often, and came away with a huge 3-0 win from it thanks in large part to a first-half brace from Paulo Dybala.

Juventus started out just as aggressively as their lineup looked to be, and it took only minutes for them to break Barcelona’s patchwork defense down and take an early lead. A run from Juan Cuadradro down the right side left Jeremy Mathieu tied up in knots, and one centering ball to Paulo Dybala later, and it was Juventus’ Argentine attacker that was opening the scoring in fantastic fashion — not Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

In fact, Dybala out-shining Messi would become a theme for the day, with Juventus’ playmaker often setting up dangerous attacks and getting opportunities to star in this match, while Messi struggled to see much of the ball, and getting shunted into less dangerous areas by Juventus’ defense much of the time when he did get on the ball. It was little shock, then, when Dybala popped up with a second goal in the opening half, a sterling first-time strike across his body that was incredibly well taken and finished.

Juventus switched to playing more of a controlling game after taking their two goal lead, seeming to want to conserve energy a bit for the second half. That half started with a big change for Barcelona, taking Jeremy Mathieu off the pitch in favor of Andre Gomes, heralding the end of the 3-4-3 formation that had done nothing for the Spaniards all day long. Gomes went into midfield with Javier Mascherano and Sergi Roberto sliding back into defense, seeing Barcelona return to a 4-3-3 that’s a much more traditional look for them.

That shift saw Barcelona earn a few early scoring chances while Juventus adjusted their own approach to what was being thrown at them, but Messi and Luis Suarez couldn’t do anything to make those chances come good. That frustration was put into even starker contrast when, just ten minutes into the half, a set piece for Juventus saw Giorigio Chiellini find a hole in Barcelona’s zonal coverage and tap the ball home with the greatest of ease to give his team a three goal lead that would have been shocking before the match — but with how the run of play had gone, was anything but surprising.

That goal seemed to take the wind out of Barcelona’s sails in a big way, though eventually they did start clawing their way back into the game. An injury to Juan Cuadrado threatened to open the door a bit for Barcelona, but Juventus’ defense was resilient in their efforts to stand tall and keep the Spaniards at bay.

That stalwart back line allowed Juventus to dictate the pace of the game in its closing stages, gradually slowing things down to help further deny Barcelona the number of scoring chances they needed to get something out of this game. The end result of a dominant 3-0 scoreline is exactly the kind of thing Barcelona wanted to avoid in this match, giving the Italians a huge leg up in the tie. Barcelona will have to be magnificently better in the second leg of this tie, because they can’t expect Juventus to just stop like Paris Saint-Germain did. Unless we see a completely different game in the Camp Nou, it’s hard to see a way back into this tie for Barcelona right now — Juventus have just been too good.

Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic (Andrea Barzagli 89’); Juan Cuadrado (Mario Lemina 73’), Paulo Dybala (Thomas Rincon 81’), Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain

Goals: Dybala (7’, 22’), Chiellini (55’)

Barcelona: Marc Andre Ter Stegen; Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jeremy Mathieu (Andre Gomes 46’); Javier Mascherano, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Sergi Roberto; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar

Goals: None

Three things we learned

Paulo Dybala is the truth

We’ve been saying for months that Dybala is on the cusp of becoming a superstar, and this match showed us that if he’s not past that cusp, he’s sitting right on the edge of it. His opening goal was fantastic and perfectly executed in that situation, showing no pressure or hesitation like you would expect of a player of his age and experience. His second goal was even better, with a first time finish that could easily be called outlandish in its quality, especially coming across his body the way it did.

The Lionel Messi comparisons are going to be obvious, given that Dybala is facing Messi and Barcelona and the whole being from Argentina factor, but while being compared to arguably the world’s best player is always going to be unfair, Dybala is certainly doing his best to live up to the comparisons. He’s not quite the same player as Messi stylistically — he’s got a bit more physicality and strength to him that comes through in much of how he plays — but there’s enough similarity there in his quality and instincts as a creator that you could easily see a lot of a young Messi in Dybala.

This is just the start of some amazing things for Paulo Dybala. We can’t wait to see how his career winds up.

The three-man back line isn’t quite working for Barcelona

Between Gerard Pique not having the wheels he once did to cover space out wide and Jeremy Mathieu just not being good enough at this level, Barcelona really struggled to defend against Juventus’ efforts to build play from out wide in this match, thanks in large part to their decision to employ a 3-4-3 that didn’t really use “real” wingbacks — to the point that perhaps Enrique’s experimentation with the formation should come to an end soon.

Some have handwaved away the problems as being because Sergio Busquets wasn’t playing in midfield, but their issues went far beyond his absence. While Busquets certainly could have helped to cover up a number of the problems Barcelona faced throughout the match, the issues they had with space in wide areas that Juventus was exploiting wouldn’t have been solved by a defensive midfielder.

It would have allowed them to play Javier Mascherano in defense instead of Mathieu, and would have given them more reliable possession in midfield, but the simple structural flaws to the formation were on full display in this match, and unless Enrique is willing to rethink how he employs it, it’s probably time for Barcelona to put the 3-4-3 away — and it was probably time for that long before Enrique scrapped it at halftime.

This Juventus team is a serious Champions League contender

Even in 2015 when Juventus made the Champions League final, they weren’t really seen as being part of the “elite” of Europe just yet. They’d had a couple of fortunate results on their way to getting to the final, and Barcelona’s greater quality was evident by the end of the night. On Tuesday, though, Juventus proved that they are leaps and bounds better than they were two years ago, and their easy domination of Barcelona on Tuesday cemented their place in that European elite category.

In fact, looking at the rest of the Champions League matchups in this round, and it will be a surprise if Juventus aren’t in the final this year. Bayern Munich are the only side currently in the Champions League who look like they’re likely capable of taking Juventus down, and even that would likely be a close and entertaining tie if they match up in the semifinals. This could be the season for Juventus, and it’s going to be a fun ride to watch them play it out.