The 2014 Champions League season comes to an end this Saturday, with an all Madrid final. Real Madrid overcame the title holders, Bayern Munich, overwhelmingly in the semi-finals, while Diego Simeone’s men beat Chelsea in the other semi-final to set up the first City derby final in the history of the competition.
Both Madrid sides have claimed silverware already this season, with Real winning the Copa Del Rey against eternal rivals Barcelona in the final with Gareth Bale grabbing a memorable winner. Atletico won their 10th La Liga title in a campaign that saw them overcome the odds to beat their city rivals and the Catalan team to the title, despite the significant financial gulf between the rojiblancos and La Liga’s “big two”.
In their past five meeting, each side has claimed two victories, while their most recent meeting ended in a 2-2 stalemate making this year’s final incredibly difficult to predict.
Both sides are also missing key players and Xabi Alonso will be certain to miss the final through suspension. Diego Costa picked up an injury in last week’s title-deciding encounter with Barcelona, which has ruled him out of the final. Meanwhile, Karim Benzema, Pepe and Arda Turan all remain doubtful for the final clash.
Real Madrid will certainly look to play an attacking game, but need to be cautious because Diego Simeone and his side have proven all season that they are more than capable of absorbing pressure and scoring on the break, much like they did in their win at the Bernabeau in September.
Diego Godin and Miranda will likely get the nod in the centre of defence between full-backs, Filipe Luis and Juanfran to complete a back four that will need to be at their best to contain the highly regarded BBC trio of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema (should the Frenchman play).
David Villa will likely be partnered by Adrian Lopez at the front of Atletico’s formation and in-form Sergio Ramos will need to maintain composure alongside his defensive partner who could be Pepe or the talented Raphael Varane.
The midfield is perhaps the most important battle in this final encounter, with Xabi Alonso’s replacement likely to be Basque youngster, Asier Illaramendi. He should be partnered with Angel Di Maria and Luka Modric and the three will face a gruelling battle with Atletico’s Mario Suarez, Gabi, Turan (fitness permitting) and the ever-impressive Koke.
In closing, this game appears to be a very close match-up and, again, will be very difficult to predict. However, given Carlo Ancelotti’s previous experience in Champions League finals as a player and coach as well as the added incentive of la decima to keep them motivated, not to mention the fact that it is in Cristiano Ronaldo’s home country, I’m going to predict a victory for Real Madrid.
By Forrest Turner