The UEFA Champions League final sees Real Madrid take on Atletico de Madrid for the biggest honour in European club football in Lisbon on May 24th.
This will be the first time since 2008 when both finalists have qualified from the same nation, with Real and Atletico being cross-town rivals at the Spanish capital city of Madrid. This can only add to this momentous occasion.
Atletico have always been viewed as the also rans in Madrid as Real, with their financial power and might, ruled the sport in the city.
Now, however, they have emerged out of that darkness as a potent force under their former midfield general and Argentine manager Diego Simeone this season.
Simeone has proven to be a shrewd campaigner and even in the La Liga, it is the first time in years that Atletico are close to breaking the hegemony of Real and Barca, the two big players in Spain.
In a league where TV money is distributed in a hugely inequitable manner, with Real and Barca earning nearly 40 percent more than all the other teams in the league combined in the La Liga, it is refreshing to see a new challenger lead the way after having played some brilliant football along the way.
Atletico have made it to the finals after having knocked out Barcelona and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea – no mean feat. Real, on the other hand, have ousted both last season’s finalists – Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and mighty Bayern Munich in the semis, making it an even bigger achievement.
The manner in which they disposed of Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled team which won their domestic league title as early as March was commendable and looked like a sign of great things to come and it’s no surprise that they start off as favourites, with bet365 offering 11/10 for their win.
Real Madrid’s quest for the tenth Champions League final is very much on the cards when they travel to face their local rivals at Lisbon. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal and Madrid’s favourite son, will be turning out in the royal white strip of Real and will garner a huge support for his team.
Some of their best play in the build-up to the final has come from the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Angel di Maria, Luka Modric, and Xabi Alonso. It is a shame that Alonso, who was absolutely instrumental in holding the Bayern midfielders over both legs will miss the final due to a yellow card ban.
The players to keep an eye on for Atletico will be Diego Costa, David Villa, Arda Turan, and Thibaut Courtois. Costa has been their stand-out goal scorer this season while Villa is the most experienced at the top level having won the trophy with Barcelona in London.
Turan is their most creative playmaker while Courtois, on loan from Chelsea has been immense at goal this term and will be looking to cap it off with the ultimate accolade in European club football.
At the present time, teams are set up much more conservatively with an eye on the trophy. However, with two of Spanish football’s most free-scoring teams set to lock horns in this finale, the possibility of heading into penalties does not look too high.
That’s also to do with the fact that history suggests Champions League finals with Real Madrid playing hardly ever go into penalties. History also suggests that these occasions are often lit up by fantastic goals from the men in white. Raul’s strike in the 2000 final and Zinedine Zidane’s wonder strike against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2001 final remains etched in the memory of all football lovers.
This promises to be a fantastic match and one would expect that it would live up to its hype as both are attacking teams featuring some of the best players in the world including the current holder of the FIFA Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo. There is a high possibility that this match will feature some great goals.
- Real Madrid to win the title: 8/13 (SkyBet)
- Atletico Madrid to score: 5/12 (888Sport)
- 2-3 goals to be scored in the game: 10/11 (Sportingbet)