So it comes down to a team from Italy against a team from Spain for Champions League glory, twice winners Juventus in their second final in three years face the holders and let’s be honest European Cup kings in 11 times champions Real Madrid. It promises to be a cracker in Cardiff this coming Saturday.
STEEL AND GRIT
Juventus have had a fantastic season. They have secured a 6th successive Scudetto title and the Coppa Italia, so a win in Cardiff would be the icing on a very big treble cake. The Italian side have been outstanding in this seasons tournament, unbeaten throughout and only conceding three goals. It stands to reason that their crack defence has been key to their progression, only conceding one goal in the knockout rounds, and that was an inconsequential late consolation in the semi-final an amazing achievement bearing in mind they have been up against Barcelona and Monaco arguably the two most potent attacking units in Europe in the quarters and semi-final respectively. Under manager, Massimo Allegri, they have also developed their attacking style too with quick transitions through midfield and the flanks to feed their key summer signing Gonzalo Higuain, who showed his worth in their last four clash with the two crucial away goals in their 0-2 first leg victory.
GOALS GOALS GOALS
So onto the holders and the 11, yes 11 times Kings of Europe. They have also secured their national league title, a first one in five years and will now be looking to add ‘The Old Big Eared Cup’ to their trophy cabinet this season, what they are calling the ‘duodécimo’. If you want goals, Real Madrid are the team to follow, their matches have featured 50 so far in the competition, seemingly a case of the Spanish side usually outscoring their opponents. Their only clean sheet came in a massive match against their city rivals Atletico in the semi-final first leg. A Ronaldo hat-trick brought a 3-0 victory which essentially settled the tie as they skilfully negotiated the second leg to make it to Cardiff. Under Zinedine Zidane, despite set backs throughout the season, they have found answers (usually goals) – but their game management under the Frenchman and club legend has to be commended and has got them through games that in the past they would have lost.
Juventus’ record in the final is poor – 2 wins and 6 defeats, they do have a history of freezing in the moment when it comes to this stage, they have actually lost the last four times they have reached the finale. As previously mentioned Real Madrid are the standout team historically when it comes to doing the business in this competition, 11 wins and 3 defeats in the final with the last one being in 1981, they have won their last five at this stage. The two sides did meet in the 1998 final when Juventus were clearly one of the the best sides in Europe whilst Real had endured an awful season finishing only 4th in La Liga, however the Spanish side raised themselves as they always seem to in this tournament and won 1-0 thanks to a Predrag Mijatovic goal, coincidentally, their current manager Zidane was in the Juventus team that day. No team has ever retained the Champions League since it has reverted to this format in the 1992/1993 season, if one team is to break this hoodoo, it would not be a surprise if it was the competitions most successful club.
A Third? or A Twelfth?
So who is going to prevail in Cardiff? From my previous blogs I predicted Juventus to make it this far and have gone against Real Madrid twice but here they are. It would probably be folly for me to go against them again, but I will. For me Juventus will be lifting the trophy come Saturday night. My reasoning relates to the fact that Real (like Barcelona and Monaco in the two previous rounds) had not faced a team that had pride in defending properly, keeping clean sheets and that in my opinion will be the difference. Cristiano Ronaldo has been the main man for Real in the knockout stages but Juve will snuff him and his conduits out like they did Messi, Suarez and Neymar as well as Monaco’s plethora of attacking weapons. The platform will then be set for Juventus’ attacking players to find the holes in the Madrid’s side leaky defence. I have feeling that their big summer signing Higuaín, bought for occasions such as this, will show his worth, helped by Dybala, Mandzukic and the evergreen Daniel Alves. My prediction 2-0 Juventus – revenge for the 1998 defeat, redemption for their recent final losses and most importantly of all a third European title for the Old Lady of Italy – Ciao Bello.
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