The prestigious San Siro in Milan will host the much awaited showdown between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, as the two sides lock horns in this year’s UEFA Champions League final. This will be the second time in the past three years that the Spanish neighbours will battle in the tournament’s final for the elusive European title.
The narrative in the past weeks has been nothing short of the expected; Robin Hood seeks revenge from the rich galaxy of superstars that is Real Madrid. No matter the tale, both sides will be filled with inspiration in what is anticipated to be a tense and even affair.
While the bookies predict that Los Blancos’ pedigree will be too much for Atléti to handle, the short past tells another story altogether. Since Sergio Ramos’ emblematic 92:48 minute header which saw the Whites eventually conquer La Decima, Simeone’s men have been impressive, having lost just once in the ten matches between both sides following that historic night in Lisbon. Real may feel that they have the psychological advantage however, knowing that their sole win in those ten derbies following La Decima came in the UCL. Should Simeone succeed in translating Los Colchoneros’ unbeaten domestic form against their rivals since 2014 to the continental stage, Real Madrid will have to play a stellar and flawless match of football to stand a chance.
Zinedine Zidane could become the seventh individual to win the European Cup as both player and coach, as did Miguel Muñoz and Carlo Ancelotti. Nevertheless, it would be naïve to assume that the Frenchman’s position as manager is safe, knowing that the soap opera life within Bernabéu sees coaches frequently come and go. Still, Real Madrid’s renaissance since their 1-0 home loss against Atlético, ironically, marked a turning point in Zidane’s short managerial career, which saw them challenge for La Liga until the last minute with 12 successive victories.
Casemiro, who has become a key player under Zidane, is likely to start ahead of Isco, with the Frenchman presumably preferring the physical presence and stability that Casemiro brings to the team. Raphaël Varane, unfortunately, will miss the final in addition to the Euro 2016 after sustaining a hamstring injury. Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit giving fans a scare earlier on in the week, is set to start, insisting that he is and will be fully match fit.
The Portugal international has already found the back of the net 16 times in Europe this season, and has recorded a half a century of goals for the sixth consecutive season. Together with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, who has notched four in his past six games, the BBC have had their best ever scoring campaign together. Even when pitted against arguably Europe’s best defence, which conceded a mere 18 goals throughout the entire La Liga campaign, the lethal BBC will be tough to handle.
The Champions League remains the only significant trophy that Simeone’s side have failed to win. Fernando Torres’ resurgence and his increasingly exciting understanding with Antoine Griezmann may just surprise Madrid. In fact, this side is by no means similar to the one that faced Ancelotti in 2014. Simeone’s team may be characteristically defensively impenetrable and intense, but this side can further counter-attack like few others in Europe. In Lisbon, Madrid knew that Atléti relied on set pieces and defensive lapses. Now, Los Blancos will need to carefully retain possession, counterpress, and defend as a unit if they are to have a chance against their solid cross-town rivals.
Zidane has come far since January, that much is undeniable. Yet, he needs to be given more time to build a dynasty – to build a fully organised squad.
Will Real Madrid’s individual quality and sheer firepower best Atléti’s rock-solid defence and team cohesion?
I sure hope so.
¡Juntos a por la Undécima! ¡Hasta el final, Vamos Real!
Real Madrid possible lineup: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Modrić, Kroos, Casemiro; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Atlético de Madrid possible lineup: Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Giménez, Filipe Luis; Saúl, Gabi, Fernández, Koke; Torres, Griezmann
Managing Madrid staff predictions:
- Om – Real Madrid 0 – 1 Atlético de Madrid
- Andrejs – Real Madrid 1 – 0 Atlético de Madrid
- Lucas – Real Madrid 2 – 0 Atlético de Madrid
- Kiyan – Real Madrid 2 – 1 Atlético de Madrid
- Mike – Real Madrid 1 – 0 Atlético de Madrid
- Timm – Real Madrid 2 – 1 Atlético de Madrid
- Gabe – Real Madrid 1 – 1 Atlético de Madrid (RMA on penalties)
- Nate – Real Madrid 3 – 1 Atlético de Madrid
- Kevin – Real Madrid 2 – 1 Atlético de Madrid
- Jared – Real Madrid 2 – 1 Atlético de Madrid