Juventus and Real Madrid face off in the most awaited clash of this season, the Champions League final. If we have to find the context of this game, both these teams have won their respective leagues in Italy and Spain. This is the battle for European superiority.
The last and only time these two faced off was back in 1998. Madrid won the game 1-0 with Zidane playing for Juventus. Predrag Mijatovic scored back then with a poacher’s finish past Peruzzi.
Things have changed since then, Zidane is now managing Real Madrid having played for both teams. Real Madrid have gone on to win 11 Champions League titles and looking to make it 12 this Saturday. No team has successfully defended Champions League in this era, Madrid and Zidane would be itching to do so.
Juventus, on the other hand, have had two finals since then but couldn’t finish the job. They lost to Milan in 2003 and then to Barcelona in 2015. A chance for Allegri’s men to restore parity against Real Madrid after 19 years. In addition, a chance for Buffon to win Champions League on his third attempt.
There are so many things at stake when teams stroll out in Cardiff. Two teams are playing their best football at the moment. Juventus have conceded just three goals so far in this Champions League campaign. A remarkable feat with two legs of Barcelona in quarter-final involved.
Their attacking trio of Dybala, Higuain and Mandzukic are very good on counters. The ever present Dani Alves is a good outlet from the right side. A compact midfield of Pjanic and possibly Marchisio is always reliable protecting the back four and with the ball. The back three of Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli sync automatically.
It will be interesting to see whether Allegri opts to play three or four at the back. The manager may just wait for Khedira’s update. If the German doesn’t feature then he might go with three at the back. This allows Alves to be more of an attacking threat which will be a headache for Marcelo.
Real Madrid have been playing some good football of late. They have a peculiar season of not playing well every game but getting the job done. Zidane’s men are Spain’s best and are bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues.
The Los Blancos were quite lucky to get past Bayern in quarter-finals. But, the way they professionally wrapped up things against Atletico was a boost. Zidane got it right tactically against City rivals by Isco in that floating role. Having a floating number 10 allows Modric and Kroos to be more dominant, outnumbering the opposition in midfield in the process.
History says Madrid are the best when the stage is highest. Juventus have succumbed in high-profile stakes in recent times. This probably is the right time for the Old Lady to get one past their opponents. But, Zidane and his men will be a tough nut to crack.
Truth be told, there is nothing to separate these two teams at the moment. The final may well go down to the wire. A curious case of Zidane trying to beat a team he played for the last time these two locked horns at this stage. But, times and priorities have changed infinite fold. Cardiff is bracing for the biggest stage.