Football

#UCL2017 Final Preview: Which side will create history in Cardiff tonight?

Photo Credit: Sport in Saigon

We’ve all been waiting for the mouth-watering clash between 11-time UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid and Italian giants Juventus for weeks now, and it’s finally here.

Zinedine Zidane was appointed Real Madrid manager 17 months ago and he has already won four major titles (La Liga, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup) with the club. This will be an emotional night for him because he spent five seasons in Turin before travelling south-west to become one of Florentino Perez’s earliest Galácticos.

The Frenchman has proved his doubters wrong time after time since taking over Rafael Benitez last year and wants to continue creating history by becoming the first team to win the UEFA Champions League title back-to-back since AC Milan did it 17 years ago.

On the other hand, Juventus will take part in their ninth Champions League final and will be looking to join Manchester United and Inter Milan as three-time winners of the competition. Massimiliano Allegri is currently in his third season with The Old Lady and has won the league and the domestic title in all occasions as Juventus manager, but has been unable to capture the illustrious European trophy (closest was 2015; when he lost against Barcelona in final).

Photo Credit: Goal

What are the team news? 

Both European giants have almost perfect teams for the final, but Zinedine Zidane must choose between starting in-form Isco or one of the world’s best in Gareth Bale. The likelier option would be Isco mainly because of his consistency in the past few months for his team, and Gareth Bale will come on in the second half to expose the Juventus back-three.

The ex-AC Milan manager will be pleased with the return of Sami Khedira from injury after he featured in the last Serie A game for Juventus. Massimiliano Allegri would most probably pick the same eleven players that featured in most of his team’s matches this season.

Probable Real Madrid XI: Keylor Navas – Marcelo, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal – Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos – Isco, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

Probable Juventus XI: Gianluigi Buffon – Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini – Alex Sandro, Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Dani Alves – Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain, Dybala

Photo Credit: Sky Sports

Who should you keep an eye on?

Cristiano Ronaldo has been in fine form for Real Madrid late and is the second top goalscorer in this season’s Champions League campaign with ten goals to his name. He just needs one more goal to match Lionel Messi’s goalscoring feat and win a record sixth topscorer award. He has proven himself to be a big game player after humbly scoring eight goals in four knockout matches against Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, so why not against Juventus?

There is one player who deserves to be in the starting line-up and his name is Isco. The Spanish wizard has been dancing around his opponents this season and he earned himself a permanent role in the first team under the support and guidance of Zinedine Zidane. He is quick-footed and has the ability to cause torment to his opponents in the blink of an eye.

Who else but Dani Alves to play in the Champions League final against Real Madrid? The Brazilian wing-back has gotten the upper hand over his longtime rivals on most occasions. He has been in tremendous form this season and also got a couple of goals under his belt.

Photo Credit: ESPN FC

How can we forget Paulo Dybala? The Argentinian forward has been constantly likened to his compatriot Lionel Messi but always insisted that he is his own person. He has a sweet left foot, great sense of the game and it is a pleasure to watch him play the game every week.

Special mentions to Sami Khedira and Gonzalo Higuain for facing their old club to do everything in the power to prove a point as well as Gianluigi Buffon, who has won almost everything in his career except the Champions League title, which is nicknamed The Big Ears.

Have they met in a Champions League final before?

Real Madrid beat Juventus 1-0 in the 1997/98 final courtesy of a goal from an unlikely hero.  Predrag Mijatović pounced on the 66th minute to ensure victory for his team and spoil Zinedine Zidane and the Italian giants’ day. He moved to Real Madrid a few years later.

Are you interested in some fun facts?

  • Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos can be the first players to score in three finals.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo only needs two more goals to earn his 600th goal for club and country.
  • A Real Madrid win would make them the first team to win consecutive titles.
  • Juventus can be the ninth team European side to win a treble if they beat Real Madrid.

What is our prediction?

Real Madrid to win 2-1 in extra time.

Prashant Kharbanda
Prashant is an part-time sportswriter at FourthOfficial.com and aspires to be a sports journalist one day. He has been a spectator of sports his whole life and now seeks to bring you the latest in news and events. He has an undying passion for the beautiful game of football, and thinks that Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world.

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