The Battle of Madrids
Saturday night sees the 61st Champions League Final played in Milan between two of the best teams in Europe right now. Although Real and Atletico Madrid were both beaten to the flag by Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga, the two Madrid sides kept the Spanish championship alive to the last round.
Real Madrid have won the competition a record 10 times, ironically beating Atletico in the 2014 final to achieve “La Decima” who have lost twice in finals and will be desperate not to lose to their more prestigious neighbours again.
The team’s of 2014 and 2016 are quite different, especially Madrid have undergone some changes and in my opinion their star is waning. Christiano Ronaldo is no doubt one of the greatest players ever and continues to lead the goal scoring records but at 31 his influence is diminishing as is his speed, although his ego doesn’t appear to be in decline.
Ronaldo will probably start despite a thigh injury picked up early in the week and just to prove me wrong, he might even score the winner but I somewhat doubt he will be able to see out the full 90 minutes should he play. Madrid’s other influential players are likely to be Gareth Bale, still with a lesser influence on the right than he would have on the left, Modric spraying the ball around from midfield and Isco, the super-talented midfielder who, in my opinion is under-utilised. James may play with the injury to Benzema but the biggest influence will come from the bench where Zinedine Zidane will be pulling the strings and willing his team on to success.
By contrast Diego Simeone will be physically trying to wring the result out of the match from the touchline. The Atletico chief is an excitable man of exceptional influence but his temper often leads his actions to push the boundaries. This short video is from the 2016 semi-final versus Bayern Munich demonstrates his emotional involvement in the match.
Does Simeone have the players at his disposal to win the first Champions League trophy for Atletico? I actually think he does. I can’t say I like how Atletico play. They defend with 9 men against the better teams. These tactics don’t make for attractive football but the fast breaks with Griezmann have proved effective in Spain and Europe.
This style of counter-attacking football will only work if Real play the dominant possession football role and push Atletico back though. Real are usually also a counter-attacking team relying on the pace of Ronaldo, Bale and Isco to make the breaks and create the goals so it’s going to be an interesting first half as the two teams feel out the tactics and the second half should see some real fireworks.
When one of the two sides goes behind, we can expect an all out attack to level the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see at least one red card either as this is a heated battle between the two halves of Madrid.
Look out for the special Champions League final boots worn by Griezmann, Godin and Gabi
Dirk: Real 1 – 2 Atletico
Ruan: Real 3 – 1 Atletico
Marcel: Real 0 – 1 Atletico