The UEFA Champions League final between Atletico and Real Madrid will be the second in three years but unlike the first, the Los Rojiblancos are favourites against their more illustrious nieighnours.
Diego Simeone’s men painfully lost the 2014 final after they led most of the game 1-0 courtesy a Diego Godin’s strike but an injury time equalizer by Sergio Ramos stretched the game into extra-time and they lost 4-1 at the end of the end.
The final in Milan on Saturday, May 28 presents Atletico Madrid a massive chance to revenge that defeat against a Los Blancos side they have struggled to hit their usual heights this season.
Already, they’ve played each other twice this season and Atletico drew one and won the other and will be buzzing with confidence as manager Diego Simeone returns to the sidelines after serving three-match touchline ban in the domestic league.
Of course, Real Madrid will not be an easy task as they have in their arsenal the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriquez, and Karim Benzema players that are natural match-winner.
How both teams will setup
Both managers are comfortable playing the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formation. Atletico may adopt the 4-3-3 style while Zinedine Zidane will most definitely stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation.
The return of Tiago Mendes in midfield is welcome news for Simeone who could throw him into the mix alongside Captain Gabi and Spanish international Gabi to support the front three of Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres, and Saúl Ñíguez.
The defence is always solid as vice-captain Godin anchors a backline with the ever reliable goalkeeper Jan Oblak as the last man standing.
For Real Madrid, Raphael Varane has been ruled out due to injury which leaves Sergio Ramos and Pepe without solid back-up incase of injuries or tactical substitutions.
In midfield, Zidane has found a way to provide cover for the flexible Luka Modric and Toni Kroos with Casemiro. However, the Los Blancos strongest point is their forward line of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
How both teams will play
Real Madrid wing-backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo will provide width as they will bump up and down the flanks all day. This means that the attacks from the Los Blancos will come mostly from the flanks.
There will be a lot of crosses into the box for Ronaldo and Bale to attack but it will be a battle all day against the Diego Godin led backline.
Atletico will try to close the spaces and deny Madrid time to think or use their pace and look to break on counter-attacks and utilize every set-piece chance they get.
Gabi is the general in midfield for the Los Rojiblancos and his delivery into the box from freekicks is just as good as anyone in the world. Koke also is a dead-ball specialist and could cause the Sergio Ramos led defence trouble trying to clear danger in vital areas.
Ronaldo, Bale, and James Rodriquez if he gets to play fire in direct freekicks with ease so Atletico will avoid committing fouls on the edge of the penalty box.
But talking about fouls, it’ll be difficult to avoid as emotions will be flying around. The Sansiro is a perfect place to ground for such a history ground and the last time it hosted a UEFA Champions League final was in 2001 when Bayern Munich defeated Valencia on penalties to lift the trophy.
Zidane vs Simeone
Zinedine Zidane has done a remarkable job in his short spell as Real Madrid manager, rescuing their season from a poor start under sacked Rafa Benitez and winning the Champions League final after narrowly missing out on the La Liga title to Barcelona will be a great feat.
Simeone have transformed Atletico Madrid in recent years and helping the club win the La Liga title in the 2013/14 season for the first time since the 1995–96 campaign have lifted the confidence of the team and now they believe that they can touch the skies.
Undoubtedly for Atletico Madrid, French forward Antoine Griezmann will be the key man for the Los Rojiblancos as his movement and knack for goals will be a handful for Real Madrid defenders.
Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably one of the greatest players of all-time and a three-time Ballon D’Or winner. He will be the Los Blancos biggest threat in attack as he packs power in his boots and his heading ability is second to none.