Simeone’s soldiers or Zidane’s gentlemen- Champions League Final preview
32 teams have been whittled down to just two who hail from the same city – Madrid. Real and Atletico have both taken different routes to Milan but ultimately they have respectively earned the right to compete for club footballs most coveted trophy – the UEFA Champions League.
Atletico Madrid have had ups and downs on their path to the final, they topped their group three points clear of Benfica but made history in the last sixteen when PSV held them to a goalless draw over the two legs. Extra time couldn’t separate the sides but Atletico won the battle on penalties. Coach Diego Simeone displayed one of Atleti’s greatest strengths that night – their fans. As he hopped up and down like a cheerleader he got the Vincente Claderon chanting. These whistles had the desired effect as PSV missed and the home side progressed. The quarterfinals once again tested the sides resolve as they faced up against last year’s winners Barcelona. Once again Simeone’s men used the Claderon to their advantage as they dispatched Barca 3-2 on aggregate. The semi-finals saw Ateltico display their talent in the art of counter attacking football. Saul’s sublime solo effort saw them defeat Bayern Munich 1-0 at home but the Allianz Arena played host to an enthralling affair. When Fernando Torres and Antoine Greizmann combined in the second half they stunned the German giants as they booked their spot in Milan.
Real Madrid have had a slightly easier journey to the final. They topped their group ahead of PSG before making light work of AS Roma in the last sixteen. The quarterfinals saw Wolfsburg take the advantage at home but a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabau saw Los Blancos sail into the semifinals. They faced Manchester City and despite a poor first leg showing Real did enough at home to make it to the final. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo are the trident that have propelled Real to the final but they will face a tough task in breaking down Atletico’s rigid defence.
Neither side could prevent Barcelona from claiming the La Liga title this season but Atletico have edged Real in the Madrid derby in recent seasons. Atletico have won out three of the sides last four league encounters, drawing the other. Real were humiliated last season 4-0 but Atletico have suffered at Real’s hands.
The 2014 Champions League final was contested by these two sides. Atetico Madrid were seconds away from a historic double when a 93rd minute Sergio Ramos header took the game to extra time. A fatigued Atletico were unable to halt a rampant Real side who went on to win 4-1 thanks to goals from Bale,Marcelo and Ronaldo. Atletico’s goalscorer on the night was center-back Diego Godin. The Uruguayan will once again play a crucial role in deciding which side of Madrid the trophy goes to. He has organised an Ateti defence that has been penetrated rarely and when it has goalkeeper Jan Oblak has been equally as impressive between the posts. The midfield boast starts such as young Sual Niguez, Koke and veteran captain Gabi. The previously mentioned strikers Torres and Griezmann have been in fine form this season and Torres will look to fulfill a childhood dream by helping his home club to European glory.
Real haven’t been tested as much as Atletico. Their defence has shown gaps especially in the City game but the English side failed to pounce on these errors. Keylor Navas has been outstanding in the Madrid goal but will need his center-back duo of Sergio Ramos and Pepe to be on their best behaviour tomorrow night. Midfield creativity comes in the from of Croatian Luca Modric while Casemiro provides cover to the Madrid back line. Goals aren’t an issue for “BBC” with Ronaldo and Bale ending the season well picking up goals when the team needed them the most.
Zidane could earn managerial acclaim if he can mastermind a Champions League win after taking over in January while Diego Simeone can further cement his status as a club hero for Atleti by delivering their first Champions League trophy.Their teams play much like the players did in their heyday- Real and Zidane the showmen who look to impress the masses while Simeone and Ateltico play street football that might not be pretty but gets the necessary results. Ultimately this game will be decided by the battle of defence vs attack. If Atleti take the lead tomorrow night they won’t repeat their mistakes of two years ago.
90 minutes until we know who the Champions of Europe are this year. Real or Ateltico… One thing that is certain is one half of Madrid will be celebrating tomorrow night!