An assuaging night Awaits us at the National Stadium in Cardiff, well, not until hostilities replaces it at kick off where the Old Lady looks to outwit the classy Los Blancos from Spain.
Real Madrid are looking to complete a double for the first time since 1958 while Juventus are on the verge of sealing a treble for the first time in their history after winning the Coppa Italia and the Scudetto for a 6th consecutive time.
Juve, the Patsy
Nine times they have made it to the European Cup / Champions League final but won it twice. This says a lot about toothless the Old Lady have been when the grand price is at stake – losing to Real in 1998 even though they were the better side that night, the heartbreak at Old Trafford five years later in hands of AC Milan and two years ago when Messi and Co daubed them in Berlin are fresh highlights to how Juventus seems to suffer from a mental block when it duly matters. Real Madrid are a complete contrast to Juve’s morbid phobia to finals – they have won all the last 5 finals they played in.
That said, Juventus are going to be an extremely hard nut to crack due to a largely dependable basement in the defence. Allegri’s tactics clearly states a ‘if you don’t concede, you always stand a chance’ mantra and his players follow it to the letter.
It’s astonishing what Zinedine Zidane has done with this Madrid team and this is not blandishment, it’s due to how he has managed to get each member know their roles in the team – over 20 players have a thousand or more minutes in the La Liga; a clear indication that there is no fatigue of any kind in the team.
Real Madrid occasionally this season has subtly evolved from that expansive 4 – 3 – 3 to 4 – 4 – 2, arguably because of the injury to Gareth Bale which has made Isco line up in the midfield in proximity to Ronaldo and Benzema.
Dani Carvajal recently indicated that he’s ‘200% ready’ for the final in Cardiff after recovering from a muscle injury and looks like he will start ahead of Danilo. That can’t be said about Gareth Bale on his return to his native land, the Welshman has recovered from his ankle injury but I want to think Zidane will pick Isco’s nifty footwork and tunnel – visioned passes over Bale’s athleticism
Sami Khedira who looked like he will miss the showdown has recovered in time to face his former employers, which suggests that Cuadrado and Marchisio are going to start from the bench. It also means that Massimilliano Allegri has his first XI intact for the final however, the way he approaches the game is of huge interest. I suspect Allegri is going to field a 3 – 4 – 3 formation to stretch Zidane’s narrow 4-4-2.
On paper, both teams cancel each other out and it’s going to be an impasse for most part of the game but the bench will be pivotal to the outcome. Where Real Madrid can call on Marco Asensio, Alvaro Morata, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Lucas Vasquez when things go ‘moribund’, Juventus have Cuadrado, Marchisio, Lemina and Pjaca. Real Madrid don’t generally have it all in their grasp, they could be defensively inept at times. I go for a 2 – 1 Madrid win.