The most coveted prize in club football is up for grabs tonight when defending champions Real Madrid face Juventus at the National Stadium in Wales.
Much of the pre-match talk has surrounded legendary Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon completing a personal medal collection, but Gigi will have to be at his indomitable best to deny Zinedine Zidane’s eleven-time European Champions. Real’s quest is to retain the Champions League, a feat that no other club has ever achieved, and lift the trophy for the third time in four years.
Max Allegri’s Juventus squad are in good shape on the injury front with only Marko Pjaca absent. Real will give late fitness tests to right back Dani Carvajal and winger Gareth Bale who are both major doubts to play a part in Cardiff. The absence of either of these key men might alter Zidane’s thinking when it comes to selecting a system to exploit Juventus weaknesses, if those even exist.
Who will blink when the defending champions and top scorers come up against a brick wall that has only conceded 3 times in 12 matches? The stage is set for the biggest club football showpiece on the planet where only one side can make another permanent mark on the game’s history books.
Ruled out: Pjaca
Likely starting XI (3-4-2-1): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Alves, Pjanic, Khedira, Sandro; Mandzukic, Dybala; Higuaín
Doubtful: Bale, Carvajal
Likely starting XI (4-3-1-2): Navas; Danilo, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Isco; Benzema, Ronaldo
Italy and Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon is a veteran of 168 caps for his country for whom he won the World Cup in 2006. The 39-year-old has also scooped numerous Serie A titles in a long career, but the Champions League title still eludes him. Juventus were well beaten by Barcelona in the 2015 final but this year they seem better equipped to go all the way. In front of Buffon it’s likely that Max Allegri will select 3 central defenders; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will throw their bodies on the line if it means that their skipper can realise his European dream.
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is the man for the big occasion. The centre back has scored in 2 Champions League finals in the last 3 years and it would be foolish to bet against the fiery Spaniard having some sort of bearing on the outcome again in 2017. Another club legend Cristiano Ronaldo has broken numerous individual records this season and adding another Champions League crown to his stellar list of honours would be the cherry on top of a lavish cake. Ronaldo surpassed 400 goals for the club this season, as well as 100 in the Champions League.
Key Match Stats
- Juventus have only won 2 of 8 European Cup/Champions League finals.
- Juventus are the only unbeaten side in this season’s Champions League.
- Juventus have never trailed at any stage of a match in this season’s knockout phase.
- Real Madrid have won the European Cup 11 times, more than any other side.
- Real Madrid have reached the Champions League final for the third time in four seasons.
- Real Madrid have now reached 15 European Cup/Champions League finals, more than any other club.
No side has ever defended the Champions League title in its current format, but it’s difficult to ever bet against a team like Real Madrid. The draw is available on ClickaBet at 3.10. It might well take extra time to separate these giants so that seems a sensible call.