We are now officially 24 hours away from having no fingernails. It’s been a long week, with a ton of build-up in anticipation of the biggest game in football. To zoom out, let’s just start off by saying we’re grateful to be here. This has been a wild ride. To tide you over (and to keep ourselves occupied), we’ve slung out a ton of content in the past week. To recap:
- MEGA Managing Madrid Preview Podcast
- Navas vs Buffon
- Preview: Defenders
- Historical Duels
- Preview: Midfielders
- Interview with a Confident Enemy
- Match Squad
We’ll have even more coverage coming your way from now until kick-off, and of course, a slew of post-match coverage per usual.
Typically, we save Managing Madrid roundtable discussions for the really big occasions, and this, um, fits the bill. Below is a dialogue between the staff ahead of the final.
*Note, I did not participate in this discussion as I didn’t feel the need to rehash what I’ve already said about this game in our podcast and Q&A. Lucas Navarette felt the same, with all the content he’s churned out.
Before we start dissecting the final, let's zoom out and appreciate everything, yeah? We're in the final for the third time in four years (that's happened exactly twice since the 90s), and are La Liga champions. How proud are you of this team?
Matt Wiltse: Immensely proud. Like Ramos had said to the press earlier this week, we had suffered for a number of years (12 to be exact) watching the final from afar and many times this included withering in the domestic and European success of our eternal rival. We went six consecutive years of crashing out in the round of 16, each one of those years brought tremendous heartbreak. Now we have a former legend, one of the greatest of all time, leading this massively talented group of players to another European final, after claiming two Champions League’s in the last 3 years--it is certainly a time to savor.
Thomas Kulkis: So proud man. I hope people don't take this for granted. It wasn’t too long ago that we went trophy-less while watching Barcelona win a treble.
Ondra Paul: I couldn’t be more proud. It’s been an incredible last few years. It took us a while to rebound from the post-Galáctico years, but we slowly and steadily improved. Florentino learnt from his transfer mistakes during his first campaign and the results are there for everyone to see. Real Madrid have assembled the best squad of 25 players in history. Three UEFA Champions League finals in four years. This is the peak year for most of our senior players recruited pre-2012. We all experienced this unbelievable journey together with the players and no matter what happens on June 3rd in Cardiff, we all should be proud of them. They’ve given everything on the pitch, they’ve overcome so many obstacles and now only one more remains (until the start of next season).
Nate Bauer: I haven't felt this excited in a while. Don't get me wrong, La Decima with Ancelotti was utterly magnificent, like indelible to the core magnificent. The lead-in to Saturday isn't as equally, viscerally thrilling, but the pervasive excitement of what Zizou has/is bringing to this club, and the unified feeling and passion that emanates from the squad goes deeper and feels way more sustainable. As the venerable Mike Platania once stated, "You are going to have to pry my cold dead hands from the Zidane bandwagon."
Om Arvind: Damn proud. What we've achieved is a historic level of dominance never before seen in the UEFA Champions League era (1992-present). We may not realize it right now, but we, as fans, are incredibly lucky to be alive at this moment in time. This will be our 15th final in over 60 years of European Cup history, three of which have come in the last four years (20% of our total). After the core of this team fades out, we could easily go through an extended period of time without making a final again. For more recent fans like me, this can be hard to imagine, but those who lived through the dark times of the middle 2000's know how rare Champions League Final appearances really are. What we are achieving now will arguably be the best CL moments we will experience for a very long time, so we should cherish every second.
C-Trick: Immensely. It always goes back to the reset in 2009-10 with the galacticos 2.0 project for me. Barcelona's domination threatened to overshadow and taint the incredible and magnetic aura of this Ronaldo-Ramos inspired generation. Everyone from Pellegrini, Mourinho, Ancelotti, and Benitez to Zidane makes where we stand today all that more remarkable. The thought that this team could have possibly gone by with only the 2011-12 Liga and 2011 Copa as notable achievements stung and these thoughts flooded my head in the dying moments of the 2014 final. It's hard to single out anyone individually, but Zidane (and the players of course) deserves all the plaudits in the universe for everything he has done.
Jose Villacreses: I’m so proud of this team for everything that they’ve managed to achieve so far. I won’t lie and say that I would be happy only by winning La Liga this season, but achieving a third Champions League final in the last four years is marvellous. An incredible feat that still blows my mind! Guess it shouldn’t considering the squad we have, but the consistency that we’ve perhaps lacked in the league in previous years has always existed in the Champions league. With the league title in hand already, the only way to perfectly send off the team into the summer break is with yet another European Cup, our 12th Orejona. I just want to see all of our players dancing and jumping around, because Zizou has really taken control and changed our team. I am forever grateful to Zinedine, the idol.
Jack Hazzard: As a team that always seems to receive unnecessary hate for either spending too much money or playing too dirty, the club really stuck together as a team and ground out a successful season. Also, huge props to the club for integrating younger stars this season. 2017 was a great year for young academy players to get an opportunity to shine.
Timm Higgins: Very proud, and even prouder if we bring home another Champions League trophy. I've been trying to appreciate the league title, but my mind keeps going to Saturday. The chance at a double just makes me giddy. Maybe I'm greedy? Anyways this season provided it all: wins, losses, fighting through injuries, falling out of first place, then getting it back and sticking it to Barca. One way or another, Saturday night is when I really take stock of the entire season. I'm still trying to process it all.
Sam Sharpe: Very proud. Especially as this recent success comes after Real Madrid changed their ways, and started investing and putting trust in their youth system. 1/3 of this year’s squad are Castilla graduates. Real Madrid have won 10 trophies in the last 5 seasons. Back in 2011, when Madrid gave their youth payers next to no opportunities, they had won just four honours. Madrid's plan is obviously to carry on in this way, and looking at the list of young talents they have at their disposal, the future looks very bright indeed.
Naguib Anam: Extremely proud of this crop of players. When Zidane took over the helm, I couldn't in my wildest dreams expect him to deliver a Champions League after taking over a Real Madrid side that was in shambles and that too in mid-season. In my mind, La Liga was all but gone and if Zidane could somehow reach the semi’s of the Champions League, that would be something I wouldn't consider a disaster. Zidane saved our season that looked doomed from the start. This season, he has done incredible things with the team. We have won La Liga, and God willing, we can win the Champions League again. I am as proud of Zidane as I am of the players.
How do you think Real Madrid match up against Juventus?
Matt Wiltse: I think individually, player for player, Madrid has a better starting 11 and certainly a better overall squad. Much has been made of Juventus’ defense and their tactical discipline, but I feel confident that Madrid can score and find a way through their defensive block. I think the trio of Ramos, Varane, and Casemiro will be the decisive factors in this game — if they are all on top form, then Madrid will be successful as they will give the freedom to the rest of the team to do what they do best: Attack.
Thomas Kulkis: Talent-wise you have to give Madrid the edge over any team in the world, but as a collective, Juve match up as well with us as anyone. I don't think it can really be debated that these are the two best sets of fullbacks on the planet this season. The matchups on the wings will be fascinating. Will Carvajal redeem himself? We know Alves and Marcelo will do damage in attack, but how well will they defend?
Ondra Paul: There is a reason why some chose Juventus as the toughest opponent in the knockout stages of Champions League. Juventus don’t have a major weakness, as they are a well rounded team with great coach. They can play a number of different systems and Zidane will have to come up with an equal number of plans. They have an experienced backline with great coordination, but it seems like they aren’t that rock-solid on set pieces. Otherwise, I expect a very tough and even game with very little chances on both ends. I think it’s going to be like the 1998 Champions League final.
Nate Bauer: I'm not sure how to feel honestly. I can't stand Juve, but the Old Lady are formidable opponents, no doubt. For some reason I don't think this is going to be a nail-biter like most think - only problem is, I have nothing to back up that assertion. I think (read: hope) that we're going to struggle a bit at first, and maybe (likely) even go down a goal. But something tells me we'll unlock the stalwart defense and open things up in the last 10 mins for a 3-1 or 4-2 finish. I think the match ups from player to player favor RM. It's going to be the classic case of we have the far better talent, they have arguably the better "team".
Om Arvind: Of all the Champions League teams we could have faced, I think Juventus matches up against Real Madrid the most favorably. They are strong offensively on the flanks, which is where Real can often be caught out defensively, and are strong defensively in the same section of the field, which is where Real Madrid are best offensively. Juventus are also excellent at protecting their goal in set-piece situations and against crosses, which again, are a huge source of Los Blancos' goals. A large part of that is down to the Bonucci-Chiellini-Barzagli trio, which is easily the best defensive line in the world (Juventus probably won't go with a back three, but any combination of those two still makes up the best center back pairing in the world).
That's not to say Juventus have a clear upper hand over us or anything. We still have the best squad in the world, a manager who usually prepares well for the big games, and Cristiano Ronaldo. It's just that this is going to be Real's biggest test of the season. Pretty fitting that such a test comes in the Champions League Final, no?
C-Trick: I think they match up well. Both teams are very balanced but Real Madrid's first XI (and several variations of it) has enough quality to contend against any team in the world. I think attacking/transition speed and intensity could prove to be a deciding factor, and is an area where Los Blancos would have an advantage.
Jose Villacreses: Zidane is not one for surprises when it comes to these games. I think the starting eleven is probably going to be this:
Defense: Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo
Midfielders: Modric, Casemiro, Kroos
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Isco
Bale will probably be given a chance to run out against tired legs in his home town. I also believe Morata will take over Benzema’s spot to try to atone for his time with Juventus where he took a Clasico final away from us. If it’s nearing extra time, probably going to see Lucas Vazquez run out and be ready in case of a penalty shootout.
Jack Hazzard: I think the match up against Juventus is a complete stalemate. I believe each player cancels out the other, meaning that the winner will come down to the side that is the most fit, which I believe goes to Madrid. Juventus have some old legs in the back, and if Madrid can put together a decent string of substitutes, they could be seen winning the final in extra time once again.
Timm Higgins: Pretty even really. We have the offense, and they have the defense. And their defense has gotten better when they went from a three man backline to a four man backline. Those are some of the best defenders in the world. Once Real Madrid find the right code to unlock even just part of that defense, I think that Los Blancos will really put on the pressure. Though Juve aren't slouches on the attacking side of the ball. I mean, Dani Alves? He's been weaponized since coming over from Barca. He's one of the best right-backs not named Dani Carvajal.
Sam Sharpe: I think it’s very well balanced. Juventus obviously have a very strong defence and are well organized, but Real Madrid's attack is unstoppable on it's day. It really is an intriguing match up. I do believe Madrid are favourites, though!
Naguib Anam: On paper, Real Madrid and Juventus seem to be on equal footing with both sides dominating football in their respective parts of the world. However, Real Madrid seem to be in a better place mentally having won two CL titles in recent years. Not only that, the CL competition defines Real Madrid's legacy. The Old Lady knows that the Kings of Europe will leave everything on the field on the night of the 3rd of June. Her best might just not be enough to take the King down.
Juventus have (arguably, but probably), the best defense Real Madrid have faced this season. On the flip side, Not a game has passed since Etihad last season where Real Madrid haven't scored. How immovable is Juve's defence compared to Real madrid's unstoppable attack?
Matt Wiltse: Answered most of this question above, but again I don’t think scoring goals will be a problem for Madrid. They have so many solutions even if things are not going well — be it a change in shape from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, or a change of personnel with the likes of Gareth Bale, Alvaro Morata, Marcos Asensio, Kovacic, etc. What this Madrid team has proven this year is that they can beat you in multiple ways and that they can adapt to the demands of a game.
Tommy Kulkis: The million dollar question. Juventus' defense is on top form, but so are Ronaldo, Isco, and suddenly Karim Benzema. Juventus will have to deal with a better tactical setup than Barca, and a more talented team than Monaco this time around. You'd have to back Real Madrid to score at least one based on recent history. If Juve hold Madrid to only one goal, however, you'd have to like their chances.
Ondra Paul: That is the question and there is an easy answer:
Not that anybody asked, but the Irresistible Force beats the Immovable Object — every time.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 14, 2015
So I choose to back the Irresistible force in the form of Real Madrid’s attack. I’m optimistic about our chances, maybe a bit irrationally, but I believe that Juventus and Buffon will see their defence ship in two goals. However, both teams will probably adopt a very conservative approach to this game and I’m sure that some newspapers are already preparing headlines with the word “boredom/boring”.
Nate Bauer: I think we'll see a different style of defending than we have recently. Juve are more balanced, and don't just hunker down like some of the other defensive-focused teams we've faced. While that presents a unique challenge, to make sure that quick counters or rapid build up don't catch us off guard, I think that also works in our favor.
Om Arvind: I won't say anything too detailed here, since then my answer would overlap a lot with question six. So in short, Juventus' defense is slightly overrated. They are the best defensive side in the world, but they're not the impenetrable juggernaut that Atlético Madrid appeared to be in 2015/16 or 2013/14. Though the Bianconeri are deserved finalists, the scorelines in Juve's quarterfinal and semifinal ties flattered them a little bit. Both Barcelona and Monaco got their fair share of good chances that they missed. So Real Madrid, the side with however many goals in a bajillion consecutive games, are most definitely going to get opportunities. It's just not gonna be a shitload, so we have to be clinical.
C-Trick: I would say Real's attack is more unstoppable than Juve's defense is immovable. These things are hard to quantify and mostly conjecture but Real's scoring streak is otherworldly. While Juventus are undoubtedly one of the best defensive teams (if not the best) in the world, there are clear signs that they can be broken down and there are ways of opening them up. Whereas, no team has been able to stop Zidane's men from scoring in SIXTY FOUR games.
Jose Villacreses: Juve’s defense could be the best one out there, but it is still not going to be strong enough to stop our attack. Just look at this: Monaco’s 18 year old, Kylian Mbappe managed to score on them in Turin. He’s a wondrous talent, yes, but this is Cristiano Ronaldo we’re talking about. There’s no way that with him up top providing firepower that we do not score. It will be tough, but it will be breached. Also, I don’t believe their attacking power is good enough to outscore Real Madrid. Will they get on the board? Most likely. I think they’ll score one from a Pjanic-Dybala combo releasing a striker. But Modric magic will kick in and Kroos will send in his perfect corners, and I see Real Madrid beating this backline.
Jack Hazzard: Juventus have a remarkable defence — that’s for sure. Madrid will need to pull out all of the guns on this one. There are two ways to break down a solid wall of defense, either beat them on the counter attack, or control possession and be patient. We have seen Madrid accomplish both throughout the season but I think one thing should resonate: patience. Madrid's time will come, they just have to wait.
Timm Higgins: This is pretty much the main storyline now, isn't it? The best defense on the planet against a high powered offense that doesn't know the meaning of being shut out. It's tough to say how this is going to go down. I don't expect a shootout and end-to-end action, that's for sure. It'll be on the front three (or two depending on the formation Zizou runs out) to unlock Bonucci and company. If they can get in-behind those guys — no matter how good Buffon is -- they can be beat.
Sam Sharpe: All I can say is wait and see. Both are so strong it could come down to who turns up on the day, or gets the luckiest.
Naguib Anam: A case of an immovable force meeting an unstoppable attack. Juventus hands-down has the superior defense out of the two teams meeting in the final. This is not a knock on our defenders, but is somewhat true. I feel it is not that our defenders lack skill, but it is also true that someone as majestic as Ramos has a bad habit of giving the ball away in dangerous places which has led to goals. Our defense tends to lose focus at times and either misplace a pass, are bullied off the ball or are even caught ball watching. I can not say the same for the Old Lady's defenders.
Let's talk about some unsung heroes. A year ago, Lucas Vazquez spun the ball on his finger before scoring the first penalty of the shootout. That moment of reptilian blood during a stressful time from a role player was so unexpected but so great. Who can be this year's Lucas Vazquez?
Matt Wiltse: I think many will say Asensio and I don’t disagree, but I also think Lucas Vazquez can be Lucas Vazquez once again. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him make an appearance in this match and if ultimately it does come down to something like penalties or extra time, he can make the difference. The club’s colours run through his veins and I think that will lift him again to unexpected heights.
Tommy Kulkis: For me it has to be Marco Asensio. The kid is made for the big stage, that much was obvious when his first two competitive goals for Madrid were a screamer and an audacious chip. A spark-plug during both legs with Bayern, Asensio could give an incredible first season the perfect cherry on top.
Ondra Paul: Well, there is an obvious candidate: Álvaro Borja Morata Martín. Former Juventus player, but a die-hard Madridista. It’s about time that someone else with has experienced what it’s like to be eliminated by one of your former players on a big stage. Morata can become a unique player who managed to eliminate the two only clubs he’s ever played for. He is a big game player, as he has shown during his time with Juventus, and it would be sweet to see him score the winning goal.
Nate Bauer: Great question. I still get chills watching Vazquez walk up cold-stone-killer to take that penalty. Huevos, man, huevos. Who will be this year's standout? I'm gonna go all fairy-tale on you and say that Bale (hopefully subbed in from the bench) comes in and turns the tide some how. Maybe not a rocket golazo from 30 yards out (but man, that would be something) but he's been down and out too long with injury this second half of the season, he's back home in Cardiff, and I think the Welsh Samurai goes wah-hostile on Juve to cinch it.
Om Arvind: Two words: Marco Asensio.
C-Trick: Although his body language and style seems to exude more confidence than Lucas Vazquez and thus it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see a cool and calm performance from him, Asensio would be my pick. If he features, he has every chance of making a big impact in the final.
Jose Villacreses: I hope that we won’t need a Lucas Vazquez this year. I don’t want it to go to the very end, into penalties. The nerves will be too much for me to handle. Who do I want to show up and be a magical hero? Alvaro Morata. He stabbed us while playing for Juve, and now he can go ahead and make it much more painful for Juventus.
Jack Hazzard: Apart from Lucas, I would say Morata will be the star of the show. Playing against his former club, I think the striker will make a late substitute appearance and upset his old Italian teammates.
Timm Higgins: Well that's easy, Marco Asensio. The kid has 'it'. Need I say more?
Sam Sharpe: Mariano Díaz. Play that boy and he will score.
Naguib Anam: Lucas Vazquez's heroics while taking his penalty has never been unsung in my mind. I feel he paved the way for the other penalty takers with his goal and immeasurable Madridisimo. This year's unsung hero of the final has to be Gareth Bale. It is simply poetic.
Tactically speaking, what worries you most about facing Juve?
Matt Wiltse: I am most worried about the free role Dybala posses within the Juventus scheme and how best to minimize his influence. He can roam all about the pitch and hurt Madrid with penetrating runs, I think Casemiro will have to do a job on him and I pray he doesn’t pick up an early yellow.
Tommy Kulkis: I have been very vocal about what worries me most tactically, and that is the diamond Zidane will likely role out to accommodate Isco. You have to play Isco based on form, but playing Bale will give you a more stable setup on the wings. You can get away with a narrow formation against Atleti, but not against a Juventus team that has been so strong out wide this season.
Ondra Paul: It depends on what kind of a system we’re going to play. If we play with a 4-4-2 diamond, then I’m seriously worried about their wing play, because we all saw how vulnerable our wings are in this system. Generally, I’m slightly worried about Casemiro if he’s going to man mark Dybala. Casemiro in the last few games wasn’t at his best, and during el Clasico, Messi time and time again baited Casemiro into dangerous tackles. The last thing we need is to play with 10 men (*a bit nervously looks at Sergio…*), but then again it looks like Casemiro mastered Xabi’s art of evading yellow cards…
Nate Bauer: I think the obvious answer, and the one I'm going to go with, is the dynamics in their attack. Our defense has been, not exactly spotty, but certainly not consistently cohesive, and with the attacking prowess and cohesion from the likes of Dybala and Higuain, the only thing I'm worried about is us not keeping razor sharp - 'cuz they'll slice us up in the back if we don't.
Om Arvind: The diamond. I have not been a fan of it since Zidane first rolled it out in the middle of the season against Granada and I'm still not a fan of it now. For sure, there are some advantages to the system. It gives us superiority in the middle and decreases our crossing-reliance, because Isco provides central occupation with his positioning and central penetration with his through balls. Ronaldo has benefitted from this, burying one-on-one chances via Isco through balls in the last two consecutive league games of the season. But as a whole, it weakens us defensively.
We can't press effectively in this 4-4-2 diamond because we allow for our structure to be broken with lateral shifts of possession due to the nature of our formation. Even when we shift our forward pressers to one wing as the opposition tries to escape via the flanks, the press can be bypassed by accessing the opposite side of the pitch, which is guarded by only one fullback.
In transition, Modric and Kroos don't really have the legs to ensure proper coverage down the wings when we defend in transition. If a team gives us time, Isco shifts to the left and Modric to the right and things become stable. But when dealing with rapid transition attacks, we look all out of sorts. Kroos, more than Modric, looks incredibly mediocre in his movements to shift out to protect the left-wing, thanks to his inability to cover ground quickly. Isco mostly tries to compensate for this (which isn't ideal, since it leaves time for the opposition to exploit an open space), but he occasionally moves over to the right to aid Modric, depending on his starting offensive position (if Madrid loses the ball when he's on the right flank, he stays on the right and helps out Modric). In this instance, Casemiro is asked to shift over to the left-wing, requiring Kroos to shift to the center.
It just becomes a mess of moving parts that potentially exposes us in the center as well as the flank. Dybala is particularly good at investigating central pockets that are unguarded and a right flank of Dani Alves and Cuadrado can really take advantage of our weak defense on the left-wing.
All of these problems seem to exist because Zidane is desperate to fit Isco into this team in the absence of Gareth Bale. That is understandable, since Isco possesses a brilliant skill-set and he has been on fire recently, but the overall balance of the team always needs to take priority. I'd risk the ire of the fans and start Asensio or James and move to a 4-3-3 instead.
I'd also quickly like to say that Juventus' penchant for cut-backs worries me. They aren't an easy thing to defend against and our central midfielders really need to be on top of their game to snuff out chances arriving on the edge of the box.
C-Trick: To go to the obvious -- their defensive quality (which is both evident at a collective and individual level). It seems they have a way of collapsing and constricting the operating space in the field. It can suffocate their opposition's creativity and attacking verve. Real Madrid are prone to sometimes defaulting to one-dimensional and predictable offense when more intricate play is difficult to implement.
Jose Villacreses: I’m afraid of Pjanic-Dybala combinations managing to outsmart Casemiro. Well that, and leaving Casemiro alone. I don’t want him to be alone in having to deal with challenges. I’m also afraid of seeing Bale on the pitch. He can be the most versatile of our forwards with extremely explosive pace, but he is probably being rushed back from his injury. Immediately I think of Diego Costa and a wasted substitution. I don’t want to be in this position. However, if Bale can’t start, having Isco on the pitch will, at least in my opinion, make it easier to breach the wings. But it’s a tradeoff, since he can break through their defensive lines with his Disco.
Jack Hazzard: Juventus possess a unique strike force up top. Dybala and Mandzukic are two completely different strikers that have a perfect connection. One big and one small. One fast and one slow. The two play off of eachothers' strengths and weaknesses which, in turn, create problems for any defense.
Timm Higgins: Their fullbacks. Both Alves and Alex Sandro are monsters in their respective sides of the pitch. It's going to be an interesting battle between the full-back's. Both of them can be dangerous on the counter. I'm worried if either Marcelo or Carvajal get caught out of position, because they will punish us.
Sam Sharpe: The longer Real go without scoring, the more difficult the task becomes. They will need full concentration, and to be at their best to break down such a strong defence, and at times even that may not be enough...
Naguib Anam: In my humble opinion, Real Madrid have a weakness of seeming too restless and disjointed when they do not see the ball as much as the opposition. Juventus can very well keep the ball away from Real Madrid to not let them settle with the ball and form momentum. For reference, one could check out the 2015-16 Clasico that was played in the month of November, where the Madrid players weren't allowed to see much of the ball in the early minutes and every time one our players came close to getting the ball, our opposition were able to retain the ball by successfully claiming a 'foul'. Come Saturday, I do not expect the Old Lady to play with utmost class, I expect her to do everything it takes to win and I imagine the same for Los Vikingos as well.
My other worries are, Real Madrid dozing off around the 30th minute as they usually do after a fiery start. Also, defensive and goalkeeping errors/farts/blunders are some of the things that keep me up at night.
Are there any holes in Juve's scheme that you think Real Madrid can exploit?
Matt Wiltse: I think our midfield is superior to Juventus. If we can get their team running and defending for long periods of time, that eventually will wear on them. Kroos and Modric will need to show grit, but also class to prove they are another level above Pjanic and Khedira.
Tommy Kulkis: Maybe not necessarily holes, but definitely Madrid has advantages in certain areas of the pitch. I think Real have a massive advantage in the middle of the pitch, and really it isn't close. If Isco, Modric, and Kroos start pinging the ball around effectively like they did in the first leg against Atleti, then it will be a very long night for Juventus. Juventus also does not have a particularly strong bench. Zidane can bring in game changers if Madrid have to chase the match, but I'm not sure Allegri can do the same.
Ondra Paul: We have to take advantage of our superior midfield. Pjanic and Khedira are fine midfielders, but they’re a class below Modric and Kroos. When Kroos and Modric have the ball, everything and everyone is calm and the game has a nice flow. When they aren’t involved, the whole team suffered like in the first 20-30 minutes of the second leg against Atlético Madrid. Another weaker spot is Barzagli, especially if he plays as right back. He is a great defender, but he isn’t the quickest defender and Monaco tried to exploit that. Mbappé focused on him and Bonucci had to help him out a lot, which could open up space for Benzema or Ronaldo.
Nate Bauer: Not anything glaring, which is typical for squads who make it to the UCL finals :-) I'd say that if we can maintain composure and control the match even a little, and not necessarily even in possession, that they'll crack before we will. We have more experience, more passion, and well, we're just better.
Om Arvind: Yes. Defensively, Juventus do particular things that can be exploited. Something I noticed in the first leg clash between Juve and Barca was how La Blaugrana actually got several good chances that could've changed the course of the game. It involved two things: exploiting Juventus' man-marking system and making blind-side runs into the channels.
The man-man marking thing could really be the Black and White's undoing if Real really prepare for this. Whenever Juve sit in a deep block, one of their center backs always steps out to mark the striker sitting in front of the back-line. If the striker moves deep enough, a hole appears in the channel between the center back and the fullback. The winger, who is tucked narrow, usually moves to close this opening, but he can be stopped from doing so. If the winger's man, (would probably be Ronaldo or Benzema) positions himself in the half space and occupies the winger's attention, the winger will be caught in two minds: whether to close off the space or mark the man next to him. That should create a moment of hesitation, giving clever players like Isco, Kroos, and Modric enough time to fire off a through ball that finds the overlapping run of a fullback or central midfielder.
Of course, all situations will not set up exactly like this, but Real's general objective should be to manipulate Juve's man-marking assignments into positions that create space for others to run into. This requires intelligent movement, excellent timing, and superb vision, which are all things Real Madrid's players possess.
A much simpler way of to breaking down Juve's defense can present itself when Juve defend higher up the pitch (perhaps to support a press). Instead of trying to play your way through the middle, teams can shift the ball to the wing and spray diagonal through balls directed at runners making blind-side runs into the channel between the center backs. Luis Suarez managed to get in behind Juventus a couple times in the quarterfinals and Mbappe was on the end of a very good chance in the 1st leg of the semifinal using this strategy. Essentially, this scheme looks to make use of the space in behind the defense by taking advantage of the fact that the CB cannot really keep track of the ball and the man at the same time. At best, he can glance over his shoulder, but he needs to spend the majority of his time looking at the ball in order to judge its flight. This allows the attacker to make a run past his markers and into space. If the requisite support arrives, the offensive team is in a really threatening situation.
C-Trick: As mentioned before, I think Real Madrid's speed of transition and vertical schemes can catch them off-guard in certain moments.
Jose Villacreses: I don’t see any apparent holes, I just don’t think that they are as offensive as it’s made out to seem. They’re very defensive, and will probably be pinned back the entire match, save some counter attacks. I don’t think it’s possible to just defend for 90 minutes against Real Madrid and expect to win that way.
Jack Hazzard: Exploit the wingers! Madrid needs to make them tired. With a system that runs either three or five in the back, there are always wingers needing to do a lot of running in order to maintain a perfect formation. Madrid should look to break them down.
Naguib Anam: How many of us remember the play that led to Alvaro Morata's goal that knocked out Real Madrid in the 2014/15 CL? I am sure most of us remember the goal, but the play is not something that is talked about a lot. The goal came after Pogba won the physical duel against Carvajal to jump and head the ball onto Alvaro Morata's path leading him to break our hearts.
As good as Pogba is, it wouldn't be right to assume that Juventus miss him at all. Without him, the Old Lady has chance at a treble this Saturday night. However, with the exclusion of Pogba, Juventus lack a physical player who can hold off players and wrestle a player out of position like he could.
I feel Real Madrid can do well to win balls in dangerous places both in attack and in defense. Real Madrid are definitely physically more superior than this Juventus side. Real Madrid should try to physically impose themselves on this game — not Atletico-style, of course, but enough to dictate and dominate the direction of play.
What’s your prediction?
Matt Wiltse: 1-0 Real Madrid win (CR7 goal)
Tommy Kulkis: Whenever I pick against the boys they prove me wrong, so I'll go 2-1 Juventus. Goals from Higuain, Mandzukic, and Benzema.
Ondra Paul: I’m going all in. 2-0 win for Madrid. Keylor will keep a clean sheet. Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver us the trophy.
Nate Bauer: Gotta go with my 4-2 Real Madrid. I think it's going to be a fairly open affair, and 2/3 of the way through the match we'll break their little Italian spines!
Om Arvind: Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus. Scorers: Ronaldo, Ramos; Higuaín
C-Trick: Real Madrid win.
Jose Villacreses: Real Madrid will win with a 3 – 1 score line. Ronaldo scores two and Morata will score one, Mandžukić will probably pull one back.
Jack Hazzard: I think we will see another PK final. Madrid wins in PKs, but the end time score will be 2-2.
Sam Sharpe: 2-1 to Real Madrid! I'm a lot more confident of a good result than some fans! Vamos Real!!
Naguib Anam: While on paper, the game looks even, this final is way too big an occasion for Real Madrid to not come out on the winning side. The Old Lady will come out with all guns blazing, but Los Vinkingos will just do enough to make history.
Juventus FC 0-2 Real Madrid (Ronaldo, Bale)
Kiyan Sobhani: 3-1 (Benzema, Ronaldo, Asensio; Pjanic)
Lucas Navarette: Real Madrid 1-2 Juventus (Ronaldo; Higuain, Dybala)