Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
Sunday, 25 May 2014, 19:00 GMT
The biggest honour in European football is up for grabs and the two teams from Madrid will go head-to-head to bring home the UEFA Champions League trophy.
The stage is set for an epic night in Lisbon. La Liga champions Atletico Madrid and Copa Del Rey winners Real Madrid go face-to-face in the Champions League final on Saturday. The 2013-14 season has been an interesting one as no one could confidently predict the outcomes of the English Premier or La Liga until the final day. The Champions League also has provided its fair share of surprises. After knocking out Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate, Real Madrid have made it to the final of the prestigious tournament after a long and tiring wait of 12 years. This will be the 13th time that ‘Los Blancos’ will fight in a final for Europe’s top honour. Atletico Madrid meanwhile have made this far only once before in 1974. While Real Madrid are chasing their 10th European Cup title, Atletico on the other hand will be looking for their first ever Champions League winners medal.
12 years is a long time. Real Madrid despite spending insane amounts of money on various players over the last decade have failed to make it this far for the past 12 years. This time however, Real Madrid fans have been treated to a great run in the Champions League and now ‘La Decima’ looks more and more gettable and nearer for ‘Los Blancos’ with each passing day. ‘Los Blancos’ have only been beaten once this Champions League. Their sole defeat came in the away leg against Borussia Dortmund when they were defeated 2-0 by the German club. Despite the defeat, Real Madrid progressed in to the next round 3-2 on aggregate. Real Madrid have been in sublime form in the Champions League this season and have displayed some amazing attacking football en route the final. Their attacking frontline has been in exceptional form with Cristiano Ronaldo even breaking a couple of records and being the top scorer in the process. The capital-club have even got the ‘German-clubs’ monkey off their back as ‘Los Blancos’ have faced and eliminated three German clubs in the knockout stage. Real Madrid have beaten Schalke, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich on their way to the final. The comfortable victory against the mighty Bayern Munich in the semi-final has given a boost to the morale in the Real Madrid dressing room.
What a memorable season this has been for Atletico Madrid. Considered the underdogs for the entire season, Atletico have fought one of the bravest battles in La Liga and emerged winners. They have managed to do what very few clubs have been able to in the past, bringing an end to the reign of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain. Despite limited funds at their disposal and lack of squad depth, Diego Simeone has been able to write a fairy tale for the Atletico fans. The comparatively less celebrated club in Madrid has certainly broken all barriers and delivered much more than what was expected of them. Defying all odds, the club has managed to win the top honours in Spain by overcoming the resurgent threats of Real Madrid and Barcelona to win the Liga title. The gutsy ‘Rojiblancos’ have also been able to stage quite a few heroic performances in the Champions League and have broken many hearts. On their way to the final, Atletico Madrid have been able to overcome and outdo fiery opponents such as AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men were able to get all the clubs without having to face a single defeat in the tournament. The Argentine manager will most certainly be wishing his team remain unbeaten for one more match and manage to snatch the Champions League trophy making headlines and providing their domestic rivals with a sour taste in their mouth in the process. Having already beaten AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea on their way to the final, Atletico must be positive of their chance of being crowned the European champions for the first time in their history.
Team news and tactics
Injuries and suspensions have been a major concern for Carlo Ancelotti this season. Injury problems are looming like a dark grey crowd over the Real Madrid camp and are threatening to play spoilsport on their biggest and most important day of the season. Ancelotti will miss Xabi Alonso badly as the Spaniard’s unnecessary and rather rash tackle on Bastian Schweinsteiger won him a yellow card and suspension from the grand finale. He could be replaced by Illarramendi, who has been brought in as his future replacement. Also major doubts for the final are Pepe and Benzema as both are still recovering from their respective injuries and the club cannot comment on their availability at the moment. Pepe has played a heroic role in the back four this season and his absence will certainly be a loss for Real Madrid. Benzema, meanwhile has racked up 5 goals and 5 assists so far and is at the top of the assist table along with teammate Di Maria. The French forward’s absence will leave one of the most dangerous attacking trio in the world incomplete. If both Pepe and Benzema fail to recover in time, Ancelotti will have to resort to the younger options at his disposal in the form of Varane and Isco. The good news however is that despite fitness concerns in the last game top-scorer Ronaldo will play alongside Welsh winger Gareth Bale
Iker Casillas will guard the goal for Real Madrid in a match which gives him a chance to win the elite competition for the third time in his career. The goalkeeper will don the armband and will be hoping to prove some of his detractors wrong by helping his boyhood club finally get hold of the 10th European cup. In the defence, right full-back Dani Carvajal will get the opportunity to play in the Champions League final in the very first season after his return to Real Madrid. Joining him will be centre-backs Ramos and Varane both of him have a shot at winning their first ever Champions League. After missing a major part of the season due to injuries, Coentrao has returned stronger and his displays in the recent games against Barcelona and Bayern Munich will earn him a spot in the back four. Brought in to eventually replace Xabi Alonso, Illarramendi has a chance to prove he can do that as the midfield maestro will miss the game due to suspension. Joining Illarramendi will be the duo of Di Maria and Modric both of whom have been fantastic in the midfield this season. The frontline of Real Madrid may remain incomplete if Karim Benzema fails to reach desired fitness levels. The Frenchman will most certainly be replaced by exciting young prospect Isco who will play the role of a false nine. Isco will be joined on by Gareth Bale who will be playing his first ever Champions League final in his first ever season at Real Madrid. The winger has a chance to prove to the world that the hefty price-tag put on him was justified. The star of the night will most certainly be Cristiano Ronaldo as the Portuguese who has an emotional connection with the host-city Lisbon will be chasing the second Champions League of his career.
Probable Line-Up (4-3-3) – Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao; Modric, Di Maria, Illarramendi; Bale, Isco, Ronaldo;
Atletico Madrid meanwhile does not really boast of having the bench strength required when you play football at this level. The major concern for the La Liga champions remains star striker Diego Costa who is having a wonderful season in terms of goals. The Brazilian-born striker limped off in the final La Liga game against Barcelona and was seen sulking as he sat in the dug-out, probably indicating that he had played his last game for the Madrid-based club. Despite the forward travelling to Serbia to receive special horse placenta treatment on the hamstring injury, his availability is very doubtful. Diego Simeone has the option of fielding two of Raul Garcia, Adrian and David Villa as the front two. Also injured in the game against Barcelona was Arda Turan. The Turkish international is on the way to recovery and tipped to make an appearance in the final. The bench will play an important role for Diego Simeone especially if the match goes into extra-time.
On-loan from Chelsea, Thibaut Courtois has been sensational this season. The Belgian international has a strong bond with the Atletico fans and this may well be his last season at the Spanish club. The goalkeeper has an opportunity to return to his parent club Chelsea with a very successful report card. Right full-back Juanfran has the chance to beat his boyhood club and snatch the Champions League trophy from under their noses. The defender has had an excellent season thus far and has also been include in Vicente Del Bosque’s 30-man provisional squad list for the upcoming World Cup. Miranda and Diego Godin will be partnering each other in the centre of the defence. Both the centre-backs have been solid the entire season and will have to be at their best in the final. Left full-back Filipe Luis has the opportunity to show Scolari what he missed out on when he chose to ignore the defender while naming the provisional squad for the World Cup. The Atletico Madrid back four have played a major role in their success this season and they have to do their best to stop the incredible attacking threats of Real Madrid. The Atletico Madrid midfield will be at their full strength with almost everyone looking raring to go. Youngster Koke has been a delight this season and will play a major role in helping Atletico win the Champions League. Tiago and Gabi will orchestrate the game from the middle of the park. Both have had a successful season so far. Captain Gabi has been wonderful this season and has racked up 4 assists so far in the competition. Despite picking up an injury against Barcelona last week, Arda Turan will be featuring in Simeone’s line-up. Who will feature as the front two in the absence of Diego Costa is something that is tough to predict. Raul Garcia has displayed his abilities as a forward and he could partner David Villa in the attack.
Probable Line-Up (4-4-2) – Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luis; Koke, Tiago, Gabi, Turan; Garcia, Villa;
- If Real Madrid win, the club will further increase their record of winning maximum number of European Cups by being the first club to win it ten times.
- Having already broken the record of highest number of goals in a single Champions League season with 16 goals, Ronaldo has an opportunity to build on it and set a mammoth target for those who wish to challenge his record
- A victory for Real Madrid will see Ancelotti becoming only the second manager in the world to win the European Cup three times.
- If Atletico Madrid win the Champions League it will be their first ever and it will help them become a force to reckon with in the future years
- Many players from both the clubs have a chance to win this prestigious competition for the first time in their careers.
Well it is the Champions League final and an accurate prediction just cannot be made. While the game looks quite even with both the teams having done well the entire season have a fair chance of winning the tie. The possibility of the game entering extra-time and maybe the necessity of a penalty shoot-out to decide the winner also cannot be ruled out. A difficult result to predict but we most certainly have one of the most exciting games of the season waiting for us.
Head-to-head (2013-14 season)
Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid (Bernabeu)
Real Madrid 3-0 Atletico Madrid (Bernabeu)
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Real Madrid (Vicente Calderon)
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Real Madrid (Vicente Calderon)
Real Madrid ?-? Atletico Madrid (Estadio da Luz)