As Real Madrid and Atletico prepare to meet again in the Champions League final, our writers predict how the game might be won and who will be celebrating in Milan.
Tell us, how will the final play out?
Ian: Many see this as Real’s unstoppable attack versus Atletico’s unbreakable defence, but I’m not sure that’s how this will pan out. Real have been quite cagey in the Champions League this year, often waiting to draw opponents out before hurting them on the break.
Diego Simeone said he expects Real to approach the final in the same cautious way they took on Manchester City, and the Atletico coach will be instructing his team not to fall into the trap and instead remain compact and tough to crack down the middle. I expect it will be fascinating rather than thrilling.
Oli: The way Diego Simeone has got his team to Milan deserves plenty of recognition, while Zidane also proved plenty of doubters wrong with this run, and this promises to be an interesting final.
Obviously, everyone expects this to be Real’s attack versus Atletico’s defence, and with city bragging rights at stage I can see this being a very cagey affair. I can’t see both teams going gung-ho from the start, let’s put it that way. It should be an intriguing tactical affair – you get a free bet bonus here with a Ladbrokes promo code – in which I can see Real bossing the ball and simply needing to find the breakthrough, while Atleti have to be as organised and effective in possession as they have been to get to this point.
James: To me it’s interesting that many people in the media are suggesting Real’s defence is suspect and that’s what could cost them in Saturday’s final. However, if you look at their results in the Champions League this season, Real have actually kept clean sheets in 10 of their 12 games – and that has actually been their strongest suit this season.
As such I think what we might see is a fairly cagey affair and it might not be until the second half when we see the breakthrough. I can actually envisage a similar scenario to two years ago when the game won’t actually be settled until the closing stages.
Where will the final be decided?
Ian: There are so many match-winners on both sides – the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Griezmann, Koke and Saul can decide the destiny of the trophy in a heartbeat. It may be one moment of genius that settles it, but I think set-plays may also decide a very tight final in much the same way that they were pivotal two years ago in Lisbon, where both goals in normal time from Godin and Ramos came as a result of corners.
James: This is such a tough thing to decide, with two very equally-matched sides. I actually think the match might be won from the dug-out – i.e which manager outwits the other and gets his tactics right and times his substitutions the best.
Oli: An abundance of star names will grace the famous San Siro turf, and I think it just takes a moment of quality from one of the names that Ian mentioned in order to decide this game. Whether it be a spectacular solo goal or a well-delivered set piece that is met by the right run; all goals count. I can see this being the kind of game that lends more to the latter – there’s no reason it can’t be a bullet header from a corner!
Who will be the key man for either side?
James: I’ve already mentioned the coaches, but it’ll be a moment of magic from either side that settles this one. Gareth Bale has exuded plenty of confidence in the build-up to Saturday’s showpiece, and he showed two years ago his liking for the big stage, so I’ll tip him to be the key man.
Ian: I’d like to be contrary, but you can’t look away from Ronaldo, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. The fella is on fire, having scored 16 goals in the Champions League this season – as many as the Atletico squad – and nine in his last seven outings, despite some injury concerns.
There have been worries over his fitness ahead of the Milan summit, but there is no way Ronaldo misses this one. Atletico will deny him space to come inside but there plenty more weapons in his arsenal.
I’d like to suggest that one of Atletico’s attacking stars will shine brightest, but I suspect Godin will again have a huge role to play, in organising the defence.
Oli: I believe Cristiano Ronaldo will have a very decisive say in this one. Sixteen goals already in the competition, including three hat-tricks, proves the 31-year-old still has everything in his locker to make a huge impact on the biggest stages.
I also reckon that Jan Oblak could have a pretty big role to play. If he pulls out some amazing saves to frustrate Real, that could just swing the pendulum, then all it takes is a moment of quality from the likes of Griezmann or Saul to seal what would be arguably the biggest win in the Rojiblancos’ history.
Give us the final score…
James: Atletico 1 Real 2 – possibly with a late winner, or even during extra time.
Ian: Atletico by a single goal – 1-0.
Oli: Atletico 0 Real 2 – Ronaldo to take centre stage again, I reckon.