Nair

Search This Blog

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Champions League final: Juventus v Real Madrid big match preview

Real Madrid and Juventus meet in the Champions League final this Saturday in what promises to be one of the most high-quality finals this competition has seen in years.

Both sides arrive at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium as champions of their respective leagues, in an intriguing clash that brings together perhaps the best attack in Europe against the best defence.

Diego Costa very close to finalising Chelsea exit after major development
Real could make history by being the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era, while Juve are looking for a first win since all the way back in 1996.

Read on for our extensive preview of the biggest game of the club season…

It’s a big game for…

Gonzalo Higuain cannot afford a bad night in front of goal (Picture: Getty)
Gonzalo Higuain.

Okay, so the Champions League final is a pretty big game for everybody, but Higuain faces a potentially career-defining match on Saturday evening.

The Argentine has had what most would consider a superb career, scoring goals everywhere he’s played and winning big things with big clubs. After making history last season by scoring 36 goals in a single Serie A season (the first time any player had done it since all the way back in 1929, would you believe), he’s arguably in the form of his career and on the cusp of true greatness.

However, after memorably choking with a couple of bad misses in the 2014 World Cup final for Argentina, Higuain needs to show he’s a big-game player who can take Juventus to the next level. Sure, he’s won the league this season, but it’s their sixth title in a row in Italy. This victory would see them firmly upgraded to the European Super Club’s lounge, and it’s games like this that are why they signed the 29-year-old from Napoli for £78million. Oh, and he’s got to do it against his former club. No pressure, Gonzalo.

Goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon has never won the Champions League (Picture: Getty)
Special mention must also go to Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who may be playing for his last chance to win this trophy that’s somehow eluded him in his great career. Who knows? A win and a clean sheet might even be enough for him to win this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Likely line ups…

Juventus’ tactics have varied throughout the season, but it seems likely that we’ll see some variant of 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 for this final.

Three centre-backs may be the best way to truly combat the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, while the energy and quality of Brazilians Dani Alves and Alex Sandro is best utilised by playing them as wing-backs.

Mario Mandzukic has been a surprise success in a wide-left role lately, and should be given the chance to continue alongside Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in attack.

Usually in a 4-3-3, Real Madrid will probably continue in that system for this game after little sign that they’ve jumped onto the 3-4-3 bandwagon yet. The big question, however, is whether Gareth Bale will start.

The Welshman has been injured and seems unlikely to make it back into the first XI on the night, and in any case, Isco has been superb lately and deserves to get the nod from Zinedine Zidane.

Ronaldo will be the one to watch, and expect him to drift around from that starting position on the right flank.

Route to the final…

How did Juve and Real Madrid get to the final? (Picture: Getty)
Real Madrid's route to the final
Group stage
Real Madrid 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 5-1 Legia Warsaw
Legia Warsaw 3-3 Real Madrid
Sporting Lisbon 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
Last 16
Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli
Napoli 1-3 Real Madrid (Aggregate: 6-2)

Quarter-finals
Bayern Munich 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 4-2 Bayern Munich (Aggregate: 6-3)

Semi-finals
Real Madrid 3-0 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid (Aggregate: 4-2)
Juventus' route to the final
Group stage
Juventus 0-0 Sevilla
Dinamo Zagreb 0-4 Juventus
Lyon 0-1 Juventus
Juventus 1-1 Lyon
Sevilla 1-3 Juventu

If you memorise one stat, make it this…

They say it’s the taking part that counts, but try telling that to Juventus: they’ve made it to eight Champions League finals, but have lost six of those – more than any other club in the competition’s history.

If you believe that history repeats itself, the fact that Real Madrid are the most successful side of all time in this tournament with eleven wins, then that spells very bad news indeed to the team from Turin.

Juve's CL final misery
1972/73 – Ajax 1-0 Juventus
1982/83 – Hamburg 1-0 Juventus
1996/97 – Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus
1997/98 – Real Madrid 1-0 Juventus
2002/03 – AC Milan 0-0 Juventus (3-2 to Milan on penalties)
2014/15 – Barcelona 3-1 Juventus
What the managers are saying…

Who will come away with the trophy? (Picture: Getty)
Massimiliano Allegri: ‘Madrid have a lot of strengths. They’re an extraordinary side with great technique and pace. They’re used to playing in these kinds of games, so it will be a great final. We should be very pleased that we’ve made it this far, but we’re going into this year with a completely different level of belief than in 2015.’

Zinedine Zidane: ‘Real Madrid are absolutely not the favourites. It’s very difficult to score against this Juve side. The defence isn’t their only strength, either. They have great players in attack, too.’

Last time they met…

It was in the semi-finals two seasons ago.

Alvaro Morata is now back at Real Madrid after being re-signed from Juventus (Picture: Getty)
On that occasion, Juventus ran out 3-2 winners on aggregate to set up a final clash with Barcelona in Berlin.

Despite an early scare in the second leg as Cristiano Ronaldo gave Madrid the lead from the penalty spot, Alvaro Morata (since moving from Juve to Real) equalised with a crucial away goal to settle the tie in the second half.

That followed a 2-1 Juventus win in the first leg in Turin.

From the archives…

What better match to look back on than the last time they met in a Champions League final?

The year was 1997/98, and Real Madrid were narrow 1-0 winners as Predrag Mijatovic steered home from close range in the 66th minute.

Zidane was on the pitch for Juventus that day, but would later make the £50million move to the Bernabeu in what was the world transfer record for nearly a decade.

The Frenchman since lifted the trophy as a Madrid player and as a manager.

kg