After Leicester City’s amazing English Premier League triumph, it is but fitting that underdogs forever (and of Madrid), Atletico win a Champions League trophy over mighty Real Madrid. Most neutrals will agree that Simeone’s team should have lifted the coveted trophy at Lisbon, where they lead for majority of the game but couldn’t hold on during the dying seconds. The 1-4 score line is as misleading as it could be.
That Sergio Ramos 93rd minute header rescued Real Madrid’s, otherwise trophy less season, and fulfilled their long-term ‘La Decima’ obsession. The San Siro clash, this weekend, has equal stakes. Real Madrid’s season, Zidane’s managerial career, Simeone’s ability to cross the finishing line (than be a perennial challenger forever) and if the balance is shifting at Madrid, will all be decided at Milan.
At Lisbon, Atletico came off an excruciating La Liga winning (on last match day) campaign with a small squad and injuries aplenty. Diego Costa limped off in the 9th minute, Raul Garcia couldn’t continue in the second half, few key players were on field despite niggles, injuries and the entire team was just about carrying themselves beyond the 80th minute.
At Milan, it’s expected to be vastly different. Atletico were out of the La Liga race early this month, have able bench strength, no suspensions, no injuries, no worries! Real Madrid on other hand are sweating on their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness.
Atletico are undefeated in 11 of their last 12 games vs Real Madrid. The only loss happened at Lisbon! Last four of these clashes have seen less than 2.5 goals per game – a very safe betting statistic.
I did average of top betting sites and this is what the markets say.
Real Madrid win : 38%
Match to go Extra Time : 30%
Atletico Madrid win : 32%
Below 2.5 goals : 65%
Real Madrid’s pedigree gives them the edge in the betting market.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s participation is in doubt and if he doesn’t start, the odds will swing towards Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Giménez , Godín , Filipe Luis; Saúl , Gabi, Augusto, Koke; Griezmann, Torres
There are no surprises and both teams almost pick themselves up. Varane is one absentee for Real Madrid, though not necessarily a significant one.
Form guide and Fine print:
Real Madrid are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 Champions League games. This stat is like a bikini – tells a lot, reveals nothing. While Atletico despatched some of the favourites en route to the final, Real Madrid sneaked their way with unconvincing wins over Roma, Wolfsburg and a listless Manchester City. Keeping a clean sheet against these set of teams wasn’t as much of a challenge and hence the final will likely be a very different story.
Still, considering where Real Madrid started their season, they are also aware that one goal here and there (as in Lisbon) and they would win their 11th Champions League trophy – Ninety minutes to overturn your season isn’t a bad bet.
Revenge will be on Atletico Madrid’s mind for that cruel Lisbon night. Since then, they are ten games unbeaten versus Real and have one of the meanest back lines in Europe. Revenge though is a double-edged sword and brings with it, its own set of pressures. A final is a final and Atletico have the ghosts of Lisbon to shake off. A drab listless affair with both teams not wanting to go behind would be order of the day. Having eaten Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Atletico have the form and confidence with them to go on and win. If they do, they would have beaten the top three teams of the world and would truly be the most deserving winner.
Prediction & Romantic Moment:
Atletico to win 2-0. Fernando Torres to score.