The winners of La Liga face Serie A champions for the ultimate prize. It’s just one aspect of a mouth-watering Champions League final. Cardiff hosts two of European football’s great names, Real Madrid and Juventus, in a repeat of the 1998 final which Real won 1 - 0.
Both sides dominated their respective leagues this season. Real, with a game in hand, saw their lead overhauled, only to return the favour to Barcelona despite a shock 2 - 3 defeat in the Clasico last month. A run of seven wins out of eight after that match saw them cruise to the title and to the Champions League final.
Juventus were never in that much trouble domestically. They ruled supreme in Serie A, stumbling occasionally but never terminally, they completed the double for the third successive season, as well as being champions for the sixth season running. A win in Cardiff will give them a historic treble, the first in Italian football.
The selection headaches Zinedine Zidane has are the kind everyone else gets playing FIFA on the PS4. Gareth Bale is fit but Isco, the most likely to make way, is in the form of his career. The only confirmed absentee is Dani Carvajal, continuing the full back pairing of Marcelo and Danilo.
If attack is their forte, defence is Real’s Achilles Heel. Zidane’s men have kept only 11 clean sheets all season (57 games) which offers plenty of scope for former Madridista, Gonazalo Higuain, to exploit. But mention of Madrid and Ronaldo is never far behind. The Portuguese ought to win World Player of the Year; even by his standards, 2016-17 has been phenomenal. 52 goals in 58 appearances for club and country, including 10 in this season’s Champions League. 14 in his last 10 games, including hat-tricks in the quarter-final and semi-final of this competition.
Frequently criticised for selfishness, he also has 13 assists this season although that leaves him joint fifth with James Rodriguez in the Real squad. Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Isco and Lucas Vasquez are all ahead of them.
True to stereotype, the Italian champions’ defence is the meanest in the Champions League this season. Not that they have sacrificed attack; only Barcelona, Milan and Sevilla kept clean sheets against Juventus this season.
Gonzalo Higuain is the main scoring threat, his tally of 32 goals is more than Dybala and Mandzukic put together, but the pair offer a different set of problems, forming a fluid forward trio.
Defensively, Max Allegri’s favoured back three oozes experience. Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzgali are formidable, ably supported by Sandro and Dani Alves. The latter might be one of the steals of recent seasons, along with Sami Khedira.
Juve have a formidable record, conceding just three goals en route to Cardiff, including a run of six consecutive clean sheets, broken by Monaco in Turin during the semi-final second leg.
With no injury concerns, Allegri is set to field his strongest line-up against Real, hoping to break the Champions League hoodoo. Juve have lost six finals, including their last four, which is a competition record.
FORM (Last six games)
REAL MADRID - WWLWWW
JUVENTUS - WWDWWW
- Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to become the first player to score a hat-trick in the quarter-final, semi-final and final of the Champions League.
- Real Madrid haven’t beaten Juventus away from the Bernabeu since 1998 (D1, L3).
- 11 of Real Madrid’s last 12 games have seen +2.5 goals.
- 7 of Juventus’ last 10 games have seen +2.5 goals.
- Juventus have not conceded more than 1 goal in their last 12 Champions League matches.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Last six meetings
Date Competition Result
13-05-2015 UCL Real Madrid 1 : 1* Juventus
05-05-2015 UCL Juventus 2 : 1 Real Madrid
05-11-2013 UCL Juventus 2 : 2 Real Madrid
23-10-2013 UCL Real Madrid 2 : 1 Juventus
31-07-2009 IPC Juventus 2 : 1 Real Madrid
05-11-2008 UCL Real Madrid 0 : 2 Juventus
The irresistible force meets the immovable object; Cristiano Ronaldo vs the Juventus defence. On the face of it, the Portuguese is unstoppable with goals flowing but this is a backline which Barcelona - Messi, Suarez and Neymar - at bay. When the defence is breached, Gianluigi Buffon is rolling back the years and in fine form.
The question is whether this is a step too far. Juventus have been impressive but with Real Madrid and the Champions League, there’s a sense of destiny every time. The Spaniards have won their last five finals, not losing since an Alan Kennedy goal won the Champions Cup for Liverpool in 1981.
Can they make this their 12th title? It’s a tough call but I think Juventus to win by a single goal margin (7/2 - Paddy Power) is my bet for the day.
MY RECOMMENDED BETS
- Each team to have more than 2 corners in each half: 2/1 with Betfair Sportsbook - Visit Betfair Sportsbook!