Juventus and Real Madrid are set to battle for the UEFA Champions League crown on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
After an enthralling domestic season that saw both Juventus and Real Madrid win their respective leagues they participated in, it is now time to show which one of the two can go a step further to be crowned European champions.
Both the teams have seen adversity come their way throughout the course of the Champions League campaign, but have overcome all challenges to make it to the grand finale in Cardiff.
Real Madrid have had good fortune in the tournament in recent years, and are only a win away from being the first team to retain the UEFA Champions League. However, it is going to be an extremely tedious ordeal, given the strength the Old Lady possess among their ranks.
Take a look at how each team made it to the Champions League final.
Juventus’ stouthearted defence ensures unbeaten run
The Old Lady have put up a defensive masterclass all season, not only in the Champions League, but also in the Serie A. Manager Massimiliano Allgeri has prioritised on maintaining the shape of his side, with the team set up to play as a robust and unruffled unit.
Juventus have conceded the lowest goals in the competition (3) this season, with only Sevilla, Lyon and Monaco managing the find a way past Gianluigi Buffon – who has been a connoisseur between the sticks for the Italian side this season.
The group stage draw took place on the 25th of August, and pitted the defending Serie A champions alongside two reputed Spanish and French sides in Sevilla and Lyon respectively, along with Croatian dark horses Dinamo Zagreb.
While Juve were expected to qualify for the Round of 16, it was unsure at the start whether they would go through as group winners, particularly due to threat Sevilla and Lyon could pose on their day.
Juve’s campaign did not get off on the best note as they were held to a goalless draw against Sevilla at home, However, they managed to bounce back away from home in the following matchday, with a comprehensive 4-0 drubbing of Zagreb.
They then managed to edge out Lyon in a tricky away fixture on matchday three with Juan Cuadrado coming off the bench to net a 76th minute winner. Juve won the contest despite being down to ten men as Mario Lemina was sent off in the 54th minute.
While they were picking up the right results away from home, their performances at the Juventus Stadium were cause for real concern as they were held to another draw, this time against Lyon.
With eight points in the bag from four games, it was uncertain whether Juve would manage to top the group, but wins against Sevilla and Zagreb on the final two matchdays saw them progress to the Round of 16, atop Group H with fourteen points.
In the first knockout round, Juve barely had to break a sweat as they walked past FC Porto 3-0 on aggregate to make it to the quarter-finals. Marko Pjaca, Dani Alves and Paulo Dybala were the ones to find net for the Old Lady.
The competition intensified when they were drawn against Barcelona in the final eight. The Catalan Giants were running high on confidence after overcoming a 4-0 first leg deficit against PSG.
However, it was the Italian side that prevailed after a 3-0 win in the first leg at the Juventus Stadium. In the following fixture, Allegri’s men held on to a 0-0 draw to win the the tie 3-0 on aggregate.
In the semi-finals, Juventus were pitted against an attacking side in AS Monaco, and managed to outmaneuver them to near perfection. The Old Lady’s patient approach to the tie saw them 4-1 on aggregate as the Ligue 1 side were left hapless on the counter on a number of occasions.
A Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real march into the final
Real Madrid have made into the final of the Champions League all due to their attacking prowess rather than Juventus, who relied on their defenders to get the job done for them, and see them through to Cardiff.
A majority of their goals have come through Cristiano Ronaldo, who has found the back of the net on ten occasions in the Champions League this season. He is only one goal behind Lionel Messi in the race for the Golden Boot, and that would be enough to see him end as the competition’s highest goal scorer for the fifth straight year.
Real were in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Sporting CP and Legia Warsaw. It didn’t seem that they would have any problem in sealing top spot, but they ended up second with 12 points – two off leaders Dortmund.
They started their campaign with a rather unconvincing 2-1 victory against Sporting CP with Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata scoring two late goals to avoid an embarrassment at the Santiago Bernabeu.
In the following game they were held to a 2-2 draw against Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park. Los Blancos looked like they had the game wrapped up, but Andrea Schurrle grabbed a late goal to pull off a draw.
Real then saw Legia Warsaw visit, and hit them all over the place at the Santiago Bernabeu. The hosts won 5-1 with a total of six different goal scorers registering their names on the scoresheet.
In the reverse fixture, Legia made it extremely hard for Real and managed to salvage a 3-3 draw after being down 2-1. Los Blancos managed to beat Sporting in their next game, but failure to pick up three points against Dortmund saw them finish second in the group.
The knockout round pitted them against Napoli, and a 3-1 scoreline in both legs saw Real march on to a convincing 6-2 aggregate victory over the Italian outfit. Los Blancos’ win saw them make it to the quarters, where they were drawn against Bayern Munich.
The Bundesliga outfit appeared to be Real’s most formidable opponents thus far in the season, and were looking to knock the defending champions out of the competition. However, a 2-1 defeat at home saw the Spanish giants take the advantage going into the second leg.
The fixture at the Bernabeu was a game marred by controversy as Arturo Vidal was controversially sent off with the aggregate score at 3-3 sending the game into extra time. However, three more goals for Real saw them make it to the semis with a 6-3 aggregate win.
Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick in the second leg, and was duly named the Man of the Match. He was then expected to put up a similar performance against local rivals Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals, and he delivered with aplomb.
Real won the first leg at home by a 3-0 scoreline with Ronaldo grabbing all three of the goals, to catapult Real into a seemingly unassailable lead going into the second leg. Atletico managed to score two early goals at the Vicente Calderon, but a goal from Isco put the tie beyond all doubt.