Fierce rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid lock horns at the San Siro in Milan for the 2016 Champions League final. El Derbi madrileño is a re-run of the 2014 final that was won by Real. Atletico will therefore be eager for revenge, and are in better shape this time around.
This weekend’s clash also sees former player-turned-manager Zinedine Zidane square off against Diego Simeone, both of whom are in charge of the clubs they were playing for. Saturday night’s outing is sure to be a mix of nostalgia and sentimentality.
What to expect from both sides
Surprisingly, it may be Real Madrid who approach the game with more pragmatism than their opposition this weekend. Los Blancos have been defensively resolute in the Champions League under Zidane this season, keeping an impressive six clean sheets from their last seven games in the competition.
Real have curtailed their attacking threat in a bid to nullify the oppositions, scoring eight goals in their six games in 2016, compared to the 17 goals from their first half-dozen outings in 2015.
As a result, they are likely to be cautious from the off, allowing the forwards to create half-chances between themselves before the fullbacks eventually start to play in Atleti’s half if the game remains even.
On the opposing side, Atletico Madrid will pose a real attacking threat in behind the Real Madrid defence courtesy of the pace possessed by strikers Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres. In the 2014 final, Los Rojiblancos gave little for the Real defence to contend with after losing their top scorer Diego Costa due to injury early in the game.
Simeone’s men now look far more capable of hitting Real on the break in devastating fashion. They have the right players to press high up the field and attempt to trap Real in their own half and may well be they team who ask the questions in the early stages of this game as a result. Atletico won’t want Real to settle into a rhythm early on, but the nerves of a final can never be underestimated and may lead to a tame first-half affair.
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have had a curious history in recent years. In Spain’s La Liga, Atletico have ruled the roost in head-to-heads, boasting four wins and two draws from their last six meetings. But it’s been a different story in the Champions League. Real have enjoyed two wins and a draw from their three meetings with Atletico in Europe, including their ‘La Decima’ triumph in the 2014 final.
Real Madrid are hopeful that Cristiano Ronaldo will be fit to start in the Champions League final after the Portuguese international limped off the pitch during Tuesday’s training session. However, he has successfully completed a training session since. Defenders Alvaro Arbeloa (muscular) and Raphaël Varane (hamstring) are expected to miss out.
Atletico Madrid will have a clean bill of health. Only Jesús Gámez has a thigh problem but most probably will take part in this weekend’s outing.
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal; Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modric; Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Jan Oblak; Filipe Luis, Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez, Juanfran; Yannick Carrasco, Gabi, Koke, Saul Niguez; Fernando Torres, Antoine Griezmann