On Saturday night the crowning glory of European football takes place, as Italian champions and Spanish giants Real Madrid go head-to-head in the Champions League final.
Both teams have looked formidable in the competition so far, but something must give on Saturday night as one team must be crowned European champions.
Real Madrid have major experience of winning the Champions League trophy, having won Europe’s biggest trophy in two of the last three seasons. In fact, if Los Blancos win the trophy they will be the first team to retain the trophy since AC Milan in 1990 under the great Arrigo Sacchi.
The men from the Spanish capital will face different opponents this year, though, as in their past two final victories they have faced city rivals Atletico Madrid in the final.
Los Blancos have failed to win either game in normal time, with the 2014 final won in extra-time, while last season the trophy was won on penalties. That fact could be crucial, as this clash promises to be a tight game. Extra-time and penalties cannot be ruled out in this clash.
Juventus have not won the European Cup since 1996 under Marcelo Lippi and have lost in the final a record six times. The Bianconeri were finalists in 2015 when Real Madrid’s arch-rivals Barcelona defeated the Italian champions.
However, Max Allegri’s side gained revenge on the Catalan outfit in the quarter-finals of this season’s competition by beating Luis Enrique’s side 3-0 on aggregate. The two-legged tie summed-up the Italian side, who resolutely defended against Barcelona’s highly rated forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Defensive solidity has been a trademark of the Italian champions this season in the Champions League, as the men from Turin have conceded just three goals in Europe’s elite competition.
Their trademark defence has helped the Old Lady recorded seven wins from their last eight outings in this competition.
The defensive side of Juventus’ game may be the main focus of Allegri’s team, but it cannot be forgotten that the Bianconeri have failed to score in just one of their last 11 outings in the Champions League. In the likes of Paolo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic they have a potent attacking threat.
Talking of potent attacking threats Real Madrid’s strengths very much lie going forward. Los Blancos forward Cristiano Ronaldo is the second top scorer in the competition this season, having scored ten times, just one less than arch-rival Lionel Messi.
When Zinedine Zidane’s team are involved there are usually goals and there has been over 2.5 goals scored in their last 12 games in the Champions League. However, against such a stubborn opposition in Juventus, that record could also end in this clash.
Juventus boss Max Allegri has a near fully-fit squad to choose from for this crucial game. The only likely absentee for the Italian champions is Croatian midfielder Marko Pjaca, who is sidelined through injury. That could mean a three-pronged attack of Dybala, Higuain and Mandzukic.
Zidane’s side are likely to be without Spanish full-back Dani Carvajal through injury, while Gareth Bale has returned from injury in time to feature in this clash. However, the Welshman could face a fight for a place in the starting line-up from Isco, who has been outstanding for Los Blancos this season.
Prediction and Tips
This game seems like a perfectly balanced encounter. There is the attacking threat of Real v the defensive rock-like Juventus defence. There is also the highly potent Juventus attack against the potentially vulnerable Real backline.
For me, the sensible prediction for this game would be a draw and the game to go either way in extra-time and/or penalty kicks. Juventus have proven they are masters in the art of defending, so the under 2.5 goals could well be a shrewd bet in this clash.