Despite dominating recent match-ups, Atlético Madrid will undoubtedly enter the Champions League final as the underdog against Real Madrid.
Real Madrid boasts one of the greatest teams, in terms of star power, in history, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, and Toni Kroos leading the way. Indeed, the roster is so deep that the leading scorer at the 2014 World Cup, James Rodriguez, had to serve as a substitute in a crucial Champions League semi-final game against Manchester City.
However, Atlético Madrid have formed an incredibly cohesive team, exuding chemistry on the pitch at every position. Diego Simeone has done a wonderful job in leading the team of seasoned veterans to success in both domestic and European competition. Anchored by the likes of Fernando Torres, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, and Filipe Luis, the club moves as a unit, holding formation in most situations.
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Statistics or star power may suggest a favourite heading into the game, but remember that every game begins with a 0-0 score, meaning each team has an equal probability of emerging as the victor.
The key to Real Madrid’s success is two-fold. Firstly, the offence, spearheaded by Ronaldo, must convert the numerous opportunities it receives every game. The side at Santiago Bernabeu contains some of the best attackers in world football today, and the objective of the game is, after all, to outscore your opponents.
In both legs against Manchester City in the semi-finals, Real wasted countless chances to open the score, and the fact that the only goal Madrid managed to record was an own goal by City defender Fernando is embarrassing.
From missed open headers by Ronaldo, to untimely slips by Madrid forwards, to miscalculated shots off the woodwork, the club must do better in a one-off match against their Madrid counterpart.
Specifically, this effort must be conducted through one of the key role players on the team, Luka Modric. The Croatian maestro directed traffic on the pitch in a brilliant fashion in the second leg of the semi-finals, dissecting Manchester City’s defense like the knife of a forensic pathologist. If the front line does a better job in converting the chances creating by Modric, the finals may become a one-sided affair before the half is over.
Secondly, Real Madrid’s defence must continue to be solidified, with Keylor Navas playing conductor at the helm. Sergio Ramos has extended his influence to the defensive line, freezing the opponent’s attacks on many occasions. It has been the highlight of Real Madrid’s season once again, surrendering just seven goals in the last 15 matches, dating back to the start of March.
On the other hand, if Atlético are to secure the biggest win in club history, and avenge their defeat by Real Madrid in the final of the 2013-14 campaign, the key is simple, Madrid must control the pace early and initiate a relentless assault on the goal.
Since March, Atlético has scored 29 goals in 15 games, scoring in every game bar the second leg in the Champions League against PSV Eindhoven.
Griezmann will be the focus of midfield assists, who must remain calm in the face of immense pressure. If the striped shirts cannot find a way to crack Ramos’ line, it will only be a matter of time before they concede to Real Madrid.
Undoubtedly, both managers know what their team must do to celebrate at the end of the day, but only on May 28 will we find out if either team can execute. In the Champions League, one mistake is all it takes, and the first to do so will leave Italy with nothing but disappointment.
Who will be crowned Champions League winners? Real or Atletico? Leave us YOUR predictions in the comment section below!