Juventus vs Real Madrid – Saturday 19:45BST/20:45 CEST – Millenium Stadium – Cardiff, United Kingdom.
Europe is set for the UEFA Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid. Indeed it promises to be one of the most entertaining finals in recent history as neither club is a clear favourite going into the final.
Juventus, in fact, have been one of the most impressive teams in this year’s tournament. The side has found the right balance between a tight defence anchored around goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgi Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli.
Juventus’ ability to shut the door against top teams and at the same time remain dangerous when going forward means that they have been impossible to play against. The forward line is centred on Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuaín, who is flanked by the equally dangerous Mario Mandžukić and Paulo Dybala. Juventus’ variability up front could become a significant advantage should Higuaín once again have a sitter in a major final.
The German national team midfielder Sami Khedira, who has developed into a dangerous box-to-box midfielder under head coach Massimiliano Allegri, holds the midfield together. Flanked by the Brazilians Dani Alves and Alex Sandro there is a good mix of offensive power and defensive awareness in Juventus’ midfield.
Altogether there is a sense that this could be Juventus’ final. But there is also the fact that Juventus tend to struggle in European finals. The old lady has lost nine out of 14 European finals, and captain Buffon has lost nine final matches with Juventus since joining the club in 2001.
Real Madrid in the meantime are a monster when it comes to Champions League finals—the club has won all five Champions League finals it participated in. Also like Juventus Turin, the side seems to be extremely well balanced. The defence centred on Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane has been stable all season. Only goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been criticized this season for making to many mistakes.
The Costa Rican keeper could very well be identified as Real’s biggest weakness and is certainly a step below his counterpart Buffon. Mistakes made by Real’s back four could be indeed costly in the final, and it is in that department that Juventus have the biggest advantage over their Spanish opponents.
Real’s midfield consisting of Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Isco and Luka Modrić combines all the elements of a championship winning side. Kroos is the heart and soul of the squad. The German midfielder can dictate the tempo and speed up or slow down Real’s game. Casemiro in the meantime is the enforcer, who gives room to the creative players to develop their play.
Up front, there is little argument that Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have forged a dangerous partnership. The Portuguese forward, in particular, has shown this season that he is not done yet. Here Real and Juventus are more or less equal with the Italians perhaps holding a small edge over variability.
Juventus vs Real Madrid – Players to look out for:
Gonzalo Higuaín #9 Juventus Turin
Can Gonzalo Higuaín finally overcome his inability to play well in finals? The Argentine forward has missed significant chances for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany, the 2015 Copa América final against Chile and the 2016 Copa América Centenario final against Chile. Higuaín has therefore often been regarded as a forward who fails to deliver when it matters the most. That said the striker has been on top form all season scoring 34 goals and four assists in 54 games this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo #7 Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronald has scored 40 goals and 12 assists in 45 games this season. While those are not unusual numbers in the context of the Portuguese’s career, it would be, at the same time, hard to find many other players that would be more prolific. Now, 32-years old there is no doubt Cristiano Ronaldo is moving towards the autumn of his career, but that does not mean that the Portuguese striker should be underestimated. His, somewhat dubious, hat trick in the quarterfinal against Bayern München is a perfect example of what happens when Ronaldo is given to much space.
Juventus vs Real Madrid – Match Stats
- Madrid aim to become the first team to make a successful defence of the UEFA Champions League title.
- Milan (1989, 1990) were the last club to pick up consecutive European Champion Clubs’ Cups. Milan (1994, 1995), Ajax (1995, 1996), Juve (1996, 1997) and Manchester United (2008, 2009) have all returned to the final as holders only to lose.
- Zinédine Zidane is seeking to become the first coach to win the UEFA Champions League two years running.
- This will be the fourth UEFA Champions League final between Spanish and Italian clubs, making it the most frequent of all potential match-ups—one more than England vs Spain and Spain vs Spain.
- Juventus are striving to become the sixth team—and the fifth club—to land the treble of domestic double plus UEFA Champions League, Barcelona have done so twice, most recently in 2015.
- Should Juventus triumph, captain Gianluigi Buffon will become the oldest player to appear in a UEFA Champions League final victory at the age of 39 years and 126 days.
- Madrid have won all five of their UEFA Champions League finals, claiming a record number of triumphs, while Juventus have lost the fixture more times than any other club – four. Indeed, their only victory was on penalties – against Ajax in 1996.
Prediction: Juventus vs Real Madrid 2-1
Juventus vs Real Madrid – Possible Lineups
Buffon – Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli – Alex Sandro, Marchisio, Khedira, Dani Alves – Mandžukić, Higuaín, Dybala
Coach: Massimiliano Allegri
Navas – Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Varane, Carvajal – Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić – Isco – Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema
Coach: Zinedine Zidane