UEFA Champions League Final

Juventus vs Real Madrid | Saturday 3 June | National Stadium (Cardiff) | 20:45

Two giants collide for the ultimate crown when Juventus battle it out with current UEFA Champions League title-holders, Real Madrid. The final pits the tournament’s best defence up against the fiercest attack. Both sides claimed a record 33rd league title in their respective leagues this season, proving that they’re worthy of challenging to be Europe’s best. Madrid will look to do what no club has done before and retain their Champions League trophy. The side from the Spanish capital are record 11-time winners, while Juve have won Europe’s elite tournament twice in their history. This promises to be a thrilling final with plenty of fireworks expected in Cardiff.

To win (90 mins)
Juventus 18/10
Draw 21/10
Real Madrid 31/20

To Lift Cup
Juventus 1/1
Real Madrid 8/10


At the start of the tournament, many people saw Juventus as no more than a team that should reach the knockout stages, but will be knocked out when they meet Europe’s so-called “bigger giants”. Game by game, the Bianconeri proved their doubters wrong, shutting out some of the best attacking forces on the continent, while putting their defence to shame with some brilliant displays going forward.

Juventus have built up their reputation through their impressive defence this campaign. Whether Massimiliano Allegri played a back-four or opted to play a back-three, the Old Lady have always been impressive. Their performances have the statistics to back them up as well with the Italian giants only conceding three times in the Champions League en route to the final.

Road to the final

Juventus topped Group H by winning four of their six matches played. That is where Juve conceded their two first goals – in their 1-1 stalemate at home to Lyon and in their 3-1 away win against Sevilla.

Topping Group H meant that the Old Lady were handed some fairly decent opposition in FC Porto in the last 16. Porto finished both legs of the tie with 10 men, but Juve always looked a class above them, eventually winning the tie 3-0 on aggregate.

Juve advanced to the quarter-finals of the tournament where they repeated their 3-0 scoreline over two legs, this time against the rampant Barcelona. Allegri’s men settled the tie in the first leg as they came out 3-0 winners at the Juventus stadium. As great as that is, I give more credit to Juventus in their second leg tie. No other team in world football could keep a clean sheet against Barcelona away from home, especially being three goals to the good with Barca chasing the game.

Up next, Juve faced a young and fearless Monaco outfit. The Old Lady showed once again why they’re worthy of being the best team in Europe. Juve claimed an emphatic 2-0 win in France, only for their impressive clean sheet run to end in the second leg as they won 2-1 in front of their home crowd.

It’s do or die now as Juventus seek a treble-winning campaign and a third Champions League trophy in their history.

Star players

It’s tough to pick one stand-out player in this Juventus team, which in all fairness, is actually a good thing. From Gianluigi Buffon to Gonzalo Higuain, each player puts in a huge shift to ensure that the club do their best. However, if I had to name a few players to stand out, Leonardo Bonucci and Paulo Dybala would be a slight cut above the rest.

No defender in world football can command a backline like Bonucci. The Italian defender, who recently turned 30 years old, rarely makes a mistake. It seems as if Bonucci also has a birds-eye view when playing a long ball to free up the attackers. That’s where Dybala is effective.

The Argentine maestro drags the opposition defence deep into midfield as well as in wide areas, allowing Higuain more space to take on defenders up front, while also setting Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado free. Dybala skips past defenders with ease and can strike a ball sweetly with his left foot. Much of Juve’s chances in the final are relied on the left boot of Dybala.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid come into this final off the back of a superb La Liga winning-campaign, beating Barcelona by three points. As mentioned before, that was a record 33rd league title for Los Blancos. Zinedine Zidane’s first full season has been nothing short of greatness.

Zidane has proven to be a mastermind tactician who knows all about the Galactico way of playing football and winning silverware. Madrid are on the longest scoring run across all competitions – 64 matches – and if they were to score in the final, they will become the first club to score 500 in the competition.

Road to the final

Real Madrid weren’t so convincing in Group F, where they finished runner-up to Borussia Dortmund. Zidane’s men did go undefeated, though, despite winning just three times. They blew hot and cold, but the Spanish giants managed what was required.

Madrid then faced Group B table-toppers, Napoli, who gave Los Blancos a scare with their early goals in both legs, but it was always going to be one-way traffic after that with the tie resulting in a 6-2 aggregate win for Zidane’s side.

The latter stages became more interesting as the champions then faced Bayern Munich (who I had tipped for glory at the start of the campaign). Madrid claimed an emphatic 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena, but suffered the same scoreline at the Santiago Bernabeu to send the game into extra-time. With Bayern receiving a red card, Los Blancos took full advantage, beating the Bavarians 4-2 over 120 minutes to claim a 6-3 aggregate win.

Up next came a Madrid derby against local rivals, Atletico Madrid. Los Blancos haven’t had the best time playing against their rivals in the league recently, but in cup competitions, they have thrived against their opposite number, knocking them out in the last four editions of the tournament. Real booked their place in Cardiff with a 4-2 aggregate win.

Star players

Like Juventus, Real Madrid have a team full of superstars. Club-captain, Sergio Ramos, has proven to be one of the best defenders in world football over the last few years, scoring some important goals for the club as well. As class as Ramos has been, Cristiano Ronaldo has to be Madrid’s most important player. Considered to be the best player on the planet by some, Ronaldo has never had an off-season. And it’s almost like the Portuguese superstar waits for the big games to bring out his best performance. If Ronaldo is in the mood, you get the feeling that Madrid could come out the happier side in Cardiff.

Probable line-ups:

Juventus: 3-4-2-1
Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Dani Alves, Pjanic, Khedira, Alex Sandro; Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.

Real Madrid: 4-3-3
Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo.

Prediction: Real Madrid (31/20)
Both Real Madrid and Juventus will both be competing in their sixth UEFA Champions League final, equalling AC Milan’s record. Impressively, Madrid have won all five of their UEFA Champions League finals, a record number of wins, while Juve have lost the fixture more times than any other club – four. The Spanish giants have had huge luck in this tournament in recent years – exactly what you need to be crowned champions. It should be a close encounter, but I’m going for a second consecutive Champions League win for Los Blancos at 31/20.

Jesse Nagel

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