UEFA Champions League Final

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid | Saturday 28 May | San Siro, Milan | 20:45

real v atletico madrid-web_compressed

For the third time in four years, the UEFA Champions League final will be a distinctly local affair as Real Madrid take on city rivals Atletico Madrid in Milan, Italy.

In all fairness, no coach deserves it more than Diego Simeone. Since his arrival, Atletico Madrid have been nothing short of strong contenders, challenging Barcelona and Madrid domestically, while being able to take on Europe’s biggest giants in the Champions League.

Click-to-bet-now-300x40However, what a story it would be for Zidane. Not many coaches have the chance to win the Champions League in their maiden season. But it was his tactical thinking and reading of the game that got his Los Blancos side to the final.

This is more than just another Madrid Derby. The winner will be crowned Kings of Europe. Who will come out on top?

Real Madrid 27/20
Draw 2/1
Atletico Madrid 43/20

Real Madrid

Despite missing out on the Spanish La Liga this season, Real Madrid have the chance to make amends by beating their local rivals Atletico Madrid. Los Blancos will look to repeat their result against Atletico from the last time these sides met in the competition, with Madrid winning the game 4-1 after extra-time. This is the sixth one-country UEFA Champions League final with Real Madrid having won two of the previous five – against Valencia in 2000 (3-0) and Atletico in 2014. This is Madrid’s 27th UEFA final, and arguably their most challenging.

Zinedine Zidane, who scored Madrid’s winner in the 2002 final, could become the seventh man to win the Champions League as both player and coach. Since his arrival at the Madrid giants, no other La Liga side has won more points. He has guided Madrid for many years as a player, now he has been given the opportunity to push Los Blancos all the way – this time as a coach.

Zidane’s football is based on fast-attacking play, with Cristiano Ronaldo partly operating as a striker in the absence of Karim Benzema at times this season. With the firepower of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, Madrid have the quality to break down any side. In behind them, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will be ever-so-present in the holding midfield role, ready to break down any sort of counter-attack posed against them.

Ronaldo could become the first player to score in three UEFA Champions League finals, after doing so with Manchester United back in 2008, and then against this season’s opponents Atletico Madrid in 2014. Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in this season’s UEFA Champions League, one short of his own record for a UEFA Champions League campaign, set in 2013/14. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored 15 goals in 24 appearances against Atletico, hitting a hat-trick in a 4-1 La Liga triumph on 11 April 2012. Madrid will need him at his best if they are going to stop this Atletico Madrid side.

Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid have undergone another stellar season with one of the best managers in the business at the moment. Diego Simeone has shown that hard work and determination can get you a result against the best of teams. Since the start of this seasons Champions League, Atleti have only been pitted against champions. In their group, they faced the Portuguese, Kazakhstan and Turkish champions. After overcoming that, they faced the Dutch Eredivisie title-holders, before battling it out against Spanish champions Barcelona. Lastly in their way to the final, they overpowered Bundesliga conqueror’s Bayern Munich over two legs to ensure their place in Milan – with the chance to become champions themselves.

Should they triumph in Milan, Atletico would become the 23rd club to lift the European Cup and the first new name since Chelsea’s 2012 triumph in Munich. Simeone could become only the third non-European coach to win the Champions League – the first two were also Argentinian. Atletico are unbeaten in eight domestic games against their local rivals since losing the 2014 UEFA Champions League final, recording five wins and three draws.

Simeone’s style of play resembles himself in many ways. Fast-paced, aggressive, and physical. With players like Gabi, Saul Niguez and Koke in midfield, Atletico ply their trade on breaking down the opposition play, giving the back four comfort in picking up the loose balls. In Jan Oblak, they have one of the brightest young goalkeepers with the Uruguayan centre-back pairing of Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin just in front him.

The partnership of Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres have been superb this campaign and will need to be at the very best for one last time in Atletico colours this season. Griezmann scored the only goal of the game when Atletico won at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season, and he will be hoping his goal will make the difference once more.

Probable line-ups:

Real Madrid: 4-3-3
Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, James; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid: 4-4-2
Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Luis; Gabi, Saul, Koke, Augusto; Torres, Griezmann.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid To Lift The Cup (1/1)
This will be a clash of tactics with both coaches going into the tie well-organized. Real Madrid finished above Atletico in the La Liga standings by two points, but have failed to beat their local rivals since their Champions League triumph over them in 2014. As a coach, Simeone has lost one of his last 10 games against Real Madrid. Back Atletico to lift the cup and claim their first UEFA Champions League trophy at even money. Recent history doesn’t bode too well for Real Madrid.

Jesse Nagel

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