Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Arguably the most exciting game of the entire season is upon us with Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid locking horns in a much anticipated Champions League finals to confirm Spanish dominance in the competition over the last couple of years.
It has been an erratic season for Real Madrid who have seen their highs and lows during the 2015-16 season, but Zinedine Zidane’s men are now faced with a prospect of making it all count as they are standing within an arm’s length of what would be their 11th European title. Los Blancos have finished their domestic season as runners-up behind the champions Barcelona and will be eager to lift the Champions League trophy which would salvage their entire charge. Despite being drawn in group A of the competition against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid topped it with ease cruising past their opponents with five wins and one draw reaffirming their champions’ bid. An impressive performance against AS Roma in the Round of 16 and an aggregate triumph of 4-0 was followed by a scare in Germany where Real Madrid suffered a 2-0 loss in the first leg. With Cristiano Ronaldo on song, the Madrid giants made sure to send the right message in the return leg and earn their place in the semi-finals. Gareth Bale was the man of the hour this time as he scored a decisive goal in a dramatic 1-0 victory to send his team into the final. Los Blancos will lack no motivation against their city rivals as it will be a chance to record only their second win in last ten meetings with Diego Simeone’s men.
Cristiano Ronaldo gave his manager Zinedine Zidane a huge scare as he limped out of training on Tuesday after a collision with goalkeeper Kiko Castilla, but the Portugal star is expected to be fit for the final showpiece.
Karim Benzema returns to the line-up after an injury that kept him out of Manchester City game, while there is a certain doubt over fitness of Luka Modric and Marcelo. French defender Raphael Varane has been ruled out of the final, but out of the Euro 2016 as well.
Los Rojiblancos have struggled in games with their local rivals all the way up to the 2013 Copa del Rey final when they ended a 25-match losing streak. However, in 15 matches since Atletico ended the hoodoo Los Colchoneros have had the upper hand in the rivalry as Diego Simeone appears to have found the right formula for keeping Los Blancos at safe distance. Real Madrid’s lack of balance in the midfield has been regularly exposed in games between two city rivals, and Diego Simeone is likely to adopt the same approach to limit Real Madrid’s main weapon and hit on the counter-attacks mainly through the revelation of a striker Antoine Griezmann, who has been in stellar form this season. Diego Simeone and his men are heading into the Champions League final feeling upbeat following the semi-final victory over Barcelona and Rojiblancos will want to uphold their reputation as the Spanish giant killers this time around as well. Their performances in pressing situations have been nothing short of impressive it would appear that Atletico Madrid are entering the match as firm favourites to clinch a win and lift the trophy. Simeone will once again lock the defences at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in order to achieve the ultimate goal and, similarly to Real Madrid, save the entire season by winning the competition.
Argentine boss Diego Simeone will have no fresh injuries ahead of the highlight tmatch of the season. GRiezmann is expected to lead the line in attack, while he could once again be joined by Fernando Torres who is particularly motivated to help his team lift the coveted trophy and continue with his improved stretch of form.
Tiago Mendes have successfully overcome his long-term injury that kept him on the sidelines for most part of the ongoing campaign and he is unlikely to be risked in Italy.
Key Factors to Consider
- Real Madrid only won 3 of the last 16 clashes with Atletico Madrid in all competitions
- There have been under 2.5 goals in last four meetings of local rivals
- Atletico Madrid failed to score in three of last 4 games against Los Blancos
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in the Champions League this season
- Real Madrid are the most successful team in the competition with 10 titles
Real Madrid as the 10-time European champions have the upper hand when it comes to the experience in games like these and will most certainly hope for the same development as in the 2014 final, when Los Blancos claimed their famous La Decima. Still, Atletico Madrid are now a more mature side, a tightly-packed unit capable of pulling a win. Goals are the safe bet here as we expect another low-scoring affair.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
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