By, Kyle Gibson
The eyes of the world will turn to Milan for an event besides fashion week this Saturday, when Real Madrid takes on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Final.
A rematch of the 2014 final is maybe not as sexy as Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich or FC Barcelona, but this intense local derby is going to crackle on the world stage.
It did two years ago, when Gareth Bale produced his greatest moment yet in Real’s white kit, winning the team’s 10th UCL crown, the fabled “La Decima.” That final also provided a manager pitch-invasion, as Diego Simeone and Raphael Varane played a very unfriendly game of kick-around.
Let’s take a quick look at how the two sides match up this time around.
Atletico owned the season series, picking up a 1-0 win in February thanks to Antoine Griezmann. The two sides drew in October.
How They Got There–Real Madrid
Real smoked Roma in the Round of 16, winning 4-0 on aggregate.
However, it took leg two heroics from Cristiano Ronaldo to propel the club past pesky Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals. Ronaldo had been criticized for much of the season for what pundits saw as diminishing skills. In this match, Ronaldo blended his all-time great skill and sheer willpower to push Madrid past the finish line in front of an electric Bernabeu crowd. He also shut up his critics.
Manchester City played a strong game against Madrid in the first leg of the semis, but were terribly meek in the second. It looked as if the Citizens could not recover from the early substitution of captain Vincent Kompany.
Special mention for manager Zinedine Zidane, who stepped in after the sacking of Rafa Benitez and turned the club’s season around as manager. Zidane is one of the best players ever and is shaping up to be quite the manager too.
How They Got There–Atletico Madrid
Atletico had the much tougher road, in my opinion. Dutch champions PSV gave Simeone’s men everything they could handle, but Atleti ultimately advanced 8-7 on penalties.
Champions League holders Barcelona came next. Barca won 2-1 at Camp Nou, forcing the game of the season at the Calderon. Atletico played out of its mind collectively, with Griezmann sealing the deal in style with a brace.
In the semis, FC Bayern were held goalless in the first leg, losing 1-0. Griezmann did it again in leg two, giving his club the deciding away goal to win the series 2-2.
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid (After extra time)
I really hope this one doesn’t go to penalties. Frankly, Atletico deserves to win. The club has been the embodiment of team soccer this season, much like English Premier League Champs Leicester City. Gabi, Koke, Griezmann, Oblak, Saul and pretty much anyone plugged in has been superb, giving his all for the team. Simeone is one of the top three managers in the world and if you argued he was the best, not many would be mad at it.