Real Madrid and Juventus brace for European showdown

Champions League Real Madrid

It’s the big one, with Real Madrid looking to win back-to-back Champions League trophies in Saturday’s final against Juventus at the National Stadium in Cardiff.

Champions League Final
3 June 2017
Kick-off 02:45 (Sunday) Hong Kong time
Venue: National Stadium, Cardiff

Referee: F Brych
Assistants: M Borsch, S Lupp
Fourth official: M Mazic

Head-to-head summary:

Juventus 11 6 2 3
Real Madrid 11 3 2 6

Previous encounter:

Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus – 13/05/15 (Champions League)

Real Madrid goalscorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (PG 23′)
Juventus goalscorer: Alvaro Morata (57’)

Players to watch:

It may be obvious to tell you to keep an eye on Cristiano Ronaldo, but after coming in for some criticism during the season the Portuguese winger has responded with some fine late-season form. Madrid are in the final because of his hat tricks against Bayern Munich in the quarters and Atletico in the semis, and that speaks for itself.

Another player who has really impressed for Madrid this season is Isco, and he’s also worth keeping a close eye on. Although the Spaniard doesn’t have the high profile of some of his peers, he has often provided the creative spark in the league. The question is, can he do it in the biggest game in club football?

For Juventus, the most likely source of goals is always going to be one of their two Argentinian strikers. Gonzalo Higuain remains one of the most clinical forwards around and will have a point to prove against his former club.

Alongside him is his younger peer Paulo Dybala, who seems the most capable of unlocking a rigid defence. If the two are allowed to link up then Madrid will be in trouble.

Team form and manager quotes:

Both teams won their domestic leagues this season, with Madrid taking the Liga title away from Barcelona, while Juve made it six Scudetti in a row.

“We’re very happy to be in the final”, said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane “We know how difficult it is to get there and we’ve worked very well during the year.

“We deserve to be in the final and the team is going in to it in very good physical shape and we’re confident.”

Los Blancos are making a habit of appearing in finals of late, having finally won La Decima in 2014 before capturing their 11th title last season. Juve last appeared in the 2015 final in Berlin, when they lost 3-1 to Barcelona.

“Juventus haven’t lost six finals, we’ve been involved in eight! Making the final is incredible,” said Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri.

“There’s only one Champions League like there’s only one Superbowl and what matters is being in the right place at the right time.

“I’m delighted to be in the final and I feel fortunate to be leading a team out in Cardiff on Saturday.”

Team news:

The big team news for Real Madrid is that Gareth Bale is fit enough to feature having recovered from a calf injury that has kept him out of action since April.

The Welshman could therefore feature, and would be cheered by the local crowd in his hometown, but his lack of match fitness means that Isco is more likely to be given the nod.

For Juve, the only expected absentees are winger Marko Pjaca and centre-back Daniele Rugani, although neither are starters in Allegri’s prefered XI, and the Italian will otherwise have a full squad to choose from with Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira seemingly fit despite injury scares.