The road to Lisbon has come to it’s end and what a final we are about to witness. Last year it was an all German affair with the Bavarian giants coming out triumphantly in the end. This year, it’s an all Spanish affair with both the teams from Madrid. Whilst the bookies and fans; bet are going to be on the more illustrious and successful Real Madrid, Atletico Club De Futbol or more so known as Atletico Madrid are certainly making waves in the European circuit having recently been crowned as the La Liga champions.
While Real Madrid have lost just one match, that coming against last year’s finalists Borussia Dortmund in the quarter finals, Atletico Madrid have been the most consistent team in this year’s Champions League and they’re the only one who are still undefeated.
Like always, Real Madrid will rely on their powerful front three which consist of Frenchman Karim Benzema, the World’s costliest player Gareth Bale and the current World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. Along with the creativity of Luka Modrić and Angel Di Maria or Isco, depending on who Carlo Ancelotti decides to deploy, Real Madrid have a formidable and creative supply line in their midfield.
Atletico on the other hand will more or less depend on their solid backline which consists of Filipe Luis, Juanfran, Miranda and Diego Godin. These four have been a revelation this season and they would surely play a vital role in this final. Talisman Diego Costa may be leaving to Chelsea at the end of the summer but he will be the first person Diego Simeone chalks in his starting XI. Unlike Mario Goetze, who played his last game for Dortmund in a Champions League final the previous year which ended in a lost cause, Costa would like to end his career at the Spanish capital on a winning note.
It seems unlikely that Ancelotti would risk putting in the more experienced Sami Khedira in place of Illaramendi or Casemeiro as the former has just come out of an injury and wouldn’t be in the best possible shape for a final. The same applies to Alvaro Arbeloa. Danny Carvajal has been excellent to say the least as a right back in place of the injured Arbeloa.
Atletico on the other hand are in full strength. Like his counterpart, Simeone would have to make a hard choice when choosing his midfield; whether to play Raul Garcia, Tiago or Mario Suarez alongside Gabi. That problem is indeed something every manager would love to have but Mario Suarez seems to be the likeliest choice as he put in a strong performance in the semi final against Chelsea. The second big decision that Simeone would have to make is to choose between the more experienced David Villa, who is known to be a big game player, or Adrian Lopez who proved to be a game changer in the semi finals.
I’m not going to state the obvious by telling you that a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Diego Costa could be the ones to watch out for. We all know their prowess with the ball and therefore, I shall try to concentrate on the other 20 people on the playing field.
1. Thibaut Courtois
Every time Atletico needed someone to save their day, Thibaut Courtois duly obliged. The Belgian has been phenomenal this season and he is certainly one of the best in the business currently and Atletico would surely depend on him to stop the shots from the plethora of attacking threats that Real does possess.
2. Luka Modrić
Clearly one of the most underrated players in the world, Modrić has been in his elements throughout this season for Real in their midfield and he has been instrumental for their success. He has been an everlasting presence for Real and would be crucial in their chase for the La Decima and more so due to the absence of partner Xabi Alonso.
Modrić’s creativity at the heart of Real’s midfield would be a deciding factor in this match and the Los Blancos would desperately want him to have one of his better days. Along with his attacking abilities, Modric is often entrusted with sweeping up ahead of the defense during opposition attacks and the Croat will have his work cut out against their city rivals.
3. Sergio Ramos
On his day, Ramos can be lethal in the air. Scoring goals like he did against the Bavarian giants in the semi finals or bagging a red card, Ramos is surely a game changing player. And the Los Blancos would certainly not want their most experienced defender to have a bad day at the office.
Ramos would be one of the most important players in the match as he would go head on against Atletico’s talismanic striker Diego Costa. And that being said, Ramos would be a deciding factor in the match.
Duels that may be decisive
Diego Costa vs Sergio Ramos
Both of them can be match winners in their own rights. Ramos is a world class defender who is extremely experienced and the Los Blancos would surely bank on him to neutralise Atletico’s talismanic striker, Diego Costa, who has been in rampant form this season.
Gareth Bale vs Filipe Luis/Juanfran
Gareth Bale is the World’s costliest player and he is certainly one of the best that there are presently, given the way he has proved his detractors wrong at his new club. We don’t know yet whether Bale would start from the right or left and keeping that in mind, Filipe Luis/Juanfran will be entrusted with the challenging task of keeping the quick footed Welshman under check. His pace is often unmatchable as has been seen very recently, Barcelona’s Marc Bartra would testify to the fact. Having said that though, both of Atletico’s full backs are not slow either and would surely be a great match up for Bale.
Arda Turan vs Danny Carvajal
Turan has been one of the finds of the season for Diego Simeone and he has been the deciding factor in many a match. And this time too, Simeone would be banking on him to provide him with a match winning performance. Young Danny Carvajal has been a great find this season for Real and he would be expected to bring his A game against the skilful Turkey international.
Expect this one to drag onto the penalty shoot outs where Real Madrid will hold the edge over their rivals due to their superior experience. But then, the kind of run that Atletico are enjoying at the moment, it is difficult to rule them out!