When one thinks of Argentine football, River Plate and Boca Juniors are the two clubs which come to mind first and naturally so, they're two of the most storied clubs in South American football. However, in the tier below those two lies San Lorenzo, 15 times winner of the Primera División and 14 times runner-up and one of the Los 5 Grandes alongside River, Boca, Independiente and Racing. While they've had mixed results in recent history, winners of the inicial half of the 2013-2014 season (the top division in Argentina is split in two halves) but 11th place finishers in the final (second half), they're still a side which Carlo Ancelotti and his men will undoubtedly take seriously.
San Lorenzo comes into this match on a three game winning streak having most recently dispatched semi-professional Auckland City in overtime. They average 1.41 goals this season (while Real Madrid averages 3.22) but have scored more than two only twice in their last 13 matches. They've been paced by Nestor Ortigoza who has six goals to his name while Gonzalo Veron leads them with three assists. Luckily for Madrid, San Lorenzo's brightest young talent in Angel Correa, a youngster compared to Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, is no longer with the team as Atletico Madrid snapped him up this past summer (so maybe it's not lucky for Madrid after all..).
Defensively, however, it doesn't look promising for the Argentine outfit. They've only kept three clean sheets out of 11 matches away from home while only winning two out of their last six road matches. They've conceded 25 goals in 22 matches and have a goal differential of -1 on the road (and this will surely count as a road match given the distance traveled and fan support on hand).
For Carlo Ancelotti ,and Real Madrid we probably shouldn't expect too many surprises. The only question marks will be how fit are Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez, with the latter apparently gunning to start in the final if he gets clearance from the training staff and it looks like he might as Carlo stated that he's been training fine since Wednesday. Ramos took part in the pre-match presser which is usually an indication of a starter but further evaluations need to be done in order to make a decision, if he can't make it then expect to see Raphael Varane in his place. Otherwise, we'll probably see more of the same in terms of lineup and formation. San Lorenzo has a habit of scoring more goals in the second half than the first so look for Madrid to turn up the intensity in the opening 45.
On San Lorenzo's side, there might be some changes from the lineup fielded against Auckland City given that some were puzzled by manager Edgardo Bauza's selection. However, the question for him and his fans will be if he should take off a pacey attacker such as Pablo Barrientos for a more defensive-minded player or go into full YOLO-mode and take his chances on the counter.
Here's something that illustrates the gulf between the two sides: Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 56 club goals in 2014 while San Lorenzo has scored 66 as a club. Of course, this is somewhat comparing apples and oranges but it's pretty clear what kind of monumental task lies before the South Americans. Should they hope to get anything out of this, they'll have to hit Madrid on the counter or off of a set piece, two aspects of the game with which Real Madrid has shown signs of struggle this season. Also, never count out Real Madrid's propensity for gifting stupid penalties to the opposition.
Though San Lorenzo can count on Pope Francis' blessing as he is a noted fan of the club (Viggo Mortensen as well), it really might require a divine intervention to stop Ancelotti's rampaging men. Real Madrid is simply in one of the finest forms we've ever seen while San Lorenzo needed overtime to get past a semi-professional club from New Zealand. Though Auckland City, had they won, would've been probably the biggest underdog in this sport's history, San Lorenzo cannot be that far off even with some of the fine talent at their disposal.
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Predicted starters: Casillas; Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal; Isco, Kroos, Illarramendi; Ronaldo, Bale; Benzema
Prediction: 4-0 Real Madrid. San Lorenzo's grueling overtime win against Auckland City coupled with Madrid's talent should prove to be too much to handle.
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