Juventus v Real Madrid (Champions League Final)
It’s hard to believe that Cristiano Ronaldo was competing in an FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium more than 12 years ago. For some, it feels like yesterday.
His Manchester United side dominated a lacklustre Arsenal team for 120 minutes in Cardiff but couldn’t find a way through.
Ronaldo himself netted in the resulting penalty shootout but Alex Ferguson’s men were ultimately undone when Paul Scholes had his effort saved by Jens Lehmann.
Ronaldo, who has flourished to become arguably the best player in the world since then, will be hoping things are a lot different the next time he steps foot in Wales to weave his magic.
He’ll lead Real Madrid out when they face Juventus in the Champions League final tomorrow – a repeat of the 1998 finale in Amsterdam which saw Los Blancos bag another European crown with a slender 1-0 win in front of 49,000 people.
Punters hoping for fireworks in Wales tomorrow probably shouldn’t hold their breath. In truth, the odds suggest the latest renewal of this fixture could be a similarly tight affair. After all, we’re dealing one of the most potent, attacking teams in the planet – Real Madrid – against a compact, disciplined, defensive unit that epitomises the Italian way of football – Juventus.
Madrid, who look to have stepped up a level since Zinedine Zidane took over the reigns at the Bernabeu, have just won their first La Liga title in five years.
And their European record isn’t to be sniffed at either. They’ve won five of their last five Champions League finals and aim to become the first team to retain the trophy. Juventus meanwhile have lost four Champions League finals on the trot.
But how significant will the history books be come June 3?
- Madrid have won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five meetings against Juventus. They most recently met in the 2015 semi-final, where the Italians knocked Real out over two legs.
- Juventus have won seven of their last eight Champions League matches.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Real Madrid’s last 12 Champions League games.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 10 goals in this season’s Champions League campaign
- Sergio Ramos is the most booked Madrid player in Europe this term with three yellow cards
- Gonzalo Higuain is Juve’s top scorer in Europe this season with five goals
Ronaldo is of course Madrid’s main man. He scored a hat-trick in the semi-finals against city rivals Atletico and will have been thrilled to have equalled Lionel Messi’s total of seven Champions League hat-tricks.
It was a sterling Madrid performance that truly stifled a side that has long lived in Real’s shadow. Atleti, known for their furious pressing and dominance of the ball, could only muster 38% possession against Zidane’s well-drilled superstars and misplaced more than 20% of their passes.
Real scored in each and every one of their La Liga games this term. Expect them to score at least one more again this time around against Juventus.
How many times Madrid will find the net depends on whether Juventus can keep up their impeccable defensive record. In their own semi-final away to Monaco, a free-flowing attacking outfit that scores freely, the Italians kept them out completely. Massimiliano Allegri’s side is built on defensive stability – a team that leads from the back and that’s driven by stalwarts Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
1-1 – correct score after 90 minutes – 28/5 (BET NOW)
Both teams to score and draw in 90 minutes – 74/25 (BET NOW)
Under 2.5 total goals in 90 minutes – 7/10 (BET NOW)
No goal scored in the first 15 minutes – 1/4 (BET NOW)
First goal by a header – 37/10 – (BET NOW)