2014’s Road to Lisbon seems to have collaborated with 2016’s Road to Milan to present us with yet another Madrid derby finale in UEFA Champions League.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
So let’s take a view of their journey in this season so far.
Rojiblancos had a staggering start to the tournament with a loss at the hands of Benfica and draws apiece against Astana and PSV. But then, the tables turned in the quarter-finals and Barcelona unfortunately was on the receiving end of Atletico’s beast mode. With an away goal and a class performance at the Calderon, Atletico made their intentions clear to the rest of the teams.
Next up it was Bayern Munich in the semi-finals who first, were handed a narrow defeat at the Calderon and then were bombarded with class attacking play which eventually exploited a hole in their defence. Atletico, despite drawing on aggregate advanced further to the finals owing to an away goal in their tally.
Los Blancos were handed rather an effortless group with PSG as their only true competition and rightly so, as their goals scored to conceded tally stood as 15:4 in 5 games. Roma vs Real Madrid. Ronaldo penetrating their defence from the left wing tailed closely by Florenzi. Ronaldo inside the penalty box; no way for him to shoot or cross without breaking the flow of the counter attack. And then it happened. Ronaldo with a ‘Ronaldo Chop’, change of foot and shoot. Top right, sailing above the keeper. Everybody knew now. CR7 was back.
Although a bump against Wolfsburg in an all-important away fixture did make a few supporters hold their breath but like mentioned earlier, CR7 was back and so was his knack of getting hattricks which made sure the capital side made it to the semis yet again. An uneventful 1st leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid took the decider to Santiago Bernabeau. And like its said, “90 minutes at the Bernabeau is a long time”. A deflected own goal by Fernando sealed the spot for Real Madrid in the finals against Atletico Madrid.
With Antoine Griezmann in sublime form up front and Jan Oblak performing ridiculously fantastic between the sticks, the newly acquired form of Fernando Torres is nothing short of an encouragement to the Rojiblancos. Also, with Godin back from his injury is a huge morale-booster to the team. After all, who can forget his header in their previous UCL final clash. With Filipe Luis and Juanfran playing pivots to the defensive wall of Atletico, their defence looks anything but exploitable. Gabi, Koke and Saul have also held the midfield along with Fernandez keeping attacks at bay and tactically passing the ball all the way.
Key Players: Antoine Griezmann(FWD), Filipe Luis(LB), Jan Oblak(GK)
Expected Formation: 4-1-4-1
Expected starting XI: Jan Oblak, Juanfran, Jose Gimenez, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Saul Niguez, Gabi, Augusto Fernandez, Koke, Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres
With Ronaldo in a swift run of form and a welcome return of form for Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, BBC looks quite formidable to handle. Also, with the link up play of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric back on song again, the Real Madrid midfield is all set to look deadly again. Brownie points to Casemiro for shouldering the responsibility of the complete defensive midfield zone. The player has been in phenomenal form keeping the attacks of his opposition at bay. The defence is where the Los Blancos need to look after. With both the right and left backs in good form, it is upto the centre backs, Sergio Ramos and Pepe to regain form to hold their fort. Keylor Navas between the sticks has also impressed in patches.
Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo(FWD), Dani Carvajal(RB), Gareth Bale(FWD)
Expected Formation: 4-3-3
Expected Starting XI: Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Pepe, Sergi Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo
The stage is set. Simeone faced Ancelotti 2 years ago but this time he faces a legend, Zinedine Zidane. A man who turned the fates of Real Madrid overnight transforming it from a disarrayed side to a selfmotivated regiment of warriors. Like Simeone said once ‘It’s not whoever has the biggest army who wins the war, it is he who uses his soldiers best.’ Well that’s what Zidane is best at.
With Simeone geared up and all fiery to lay hands on his first UCL, its upto Zidane and his men to fight the battle of this season-and outshine the Rojiblancos-in Zizou’s debut season.
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