It’s the game we have been waiting for all season long – the Champions League final. Without doubt the biggest club fixture this year, and every year, the final of the Champions League is a game you never want to miss.
Two Madrid teams go into this one and usually, this would just be a derby but the Madrid derby has obviously become the superior all-city duel in world football. For two teams from the same city to slug it out in one Champions League final is already special but to have it happen twice in three years goes a long way to prove that the Spanish capital is without doubt the current home of club football.
Years ago, this would have been easy to predict, a win for Real Madrid but no, times have changed. Atletico are no longer Real’s underdogs, they somehow now have the grit to match the Los Blancos. Diego Simeone’s soldiers have won five out of their last six league games with Real, including their last encounter in February.
This same fixture was the Champions League final of 2014 which saw Atletico holding on to a lone goal for an awesome 93 minutes before a Sergio Ramos header started a rout which lead to a 4-1 win for Real Madrid. That win was Real’s ‘La Decima’ and this time they have the opportunity to hurt their neighbours some more by grabbing their 11th Champions League title in Milan tonight.
A tale of two ex-players
Carlo Ancelotti led Real to that famous La Decima win two years ago but this time Zinedine Zidane would get the chance to lead his old club.
“When the match starts, I’ll be a bit tense, but that’s part of the job and I like it,” he said. “I experienced it as a player, but as a coach it’s completely different,” says Zidane who won his first Champions League trophy with Madrid. His opposite number Simeone who was a legend for Atletico in his playing days however says his team are ready to counter their rivals and would do anything to play the game at their own terms.
The road to the Champions League final
Real Madrid simply strolled through the group stages of the competition, unbeaten, scoring 19 goals. A routine 4-0 aggregate win against Roma followed in the round-of-16, before experiencing a shock 2-0 defeat to German side Wolfsburg in their quarter final first-leg. Just when it looked like they would be eliminated, Cristiano Ronaldo fired a second leg hat-trick to see Real through. Their semi-final with Manchester City was a tight encounter, with a second-leg own goal by Fernando proving to be the deciding factor between the two sides.
Neighbours Atletico had a tougher route however. Despite coming through the group phase with ease, they came up against PSV in the last-16. That game was decided on penalties after a goalless aggregate draw. They then took on La Liga winners Barcelona and with an impressive performance, came back from 2-1 down in the first leg to win 3-2 on aggregate. Bayern Munich was the next hurdle. A 1-0 home win after Saul Alvarez’s solo goal was followed up with a 2-1 defeat in Munich. Antoine Griezmann’s second half strike proved to be decisive in this game, as the Spaniards progressed on away goals.
Today Europe will quake, from the Forest of the Bucharest to the Palms of Sicily.
7.45pm, Nigeria time. The San-Siro, Milan