Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid square off in the Champions League trophy in Milan this Saturday.
The San Siro plays host to the second all Madrid derby in three seasons: a telling indictment for those who consider the English Premier League as the one sacred league in European football. When you throw in the fact that Barcelona are the current La Liga champions whilst Sevilla conquered the Europa league - you get some idea as to the gulf that currently resides between the two European leagues. Atletico aim to inflict some revenge for that heartbreaking extra-time defeat in Lisbon from two years back. They have defied the Spanish football politic and have remained a consistent threat to the traditional hegemony enjoyed by Barca and Real. Real aim to extend their European leading tally of ten victories and will be hugely motivated come Saturday night.
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid | Saturday 28 May | San Siro | 20:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Atletico 21/10 | Draw 2/1 | Real 14/10
To Lift Cup
Atletico 1/1 | Real 7/10
Diego Simeone's side are a perfect distillation of the manager’s values and hard-nosed determination. Their work ethic is peerless while there is a cutting edge that is able to exploit any momentary lapse in concentration. Antoine Griezmann is the current Cinderella of the European footballing circuit and has proved essential to their counterattacking style. He benefits from the masochistic work ethic of the likes of Koke and Gabi. Their sheer unwillingness to let a 50/50, or even 60/40, challenge go by is testament to the manner in which Simeone's personality has infused into the entire side.
It’s a slight catch-22 scenario for Atletico: on one hand, their carnivorous approach to the tackle situation is the very lifeblood behind the club; on the other, Real Madrid are notorious for their on-field theatrics and will no doubt look to perpetuate ‘incendiary’ incidents. It’s an unfortunate reality in modern football that such tactics are not deemed cowardly but rather viewed under a strangely positive ‘in it to win it’ telescope. Godin will need to be compact while Luiz may prove to be an unexpectedly dangerous outlet down Madrid’s less pacey right-hand defensive side.
In the same way, that Atletico are encapsulated by their manager, Zinedine Zidane has managed to bring his idiosyncratic style into a side that was struggling for relevance. He has managed to reenergize Gareth Bale and show why Real Madrid chose to break the World Transfer record on him. He seems willing to run at defenders again and has utilized his tremendous aerial ability far more effectively this season. Cristiano Ronaldo has had a minor injury care but should shake it off in time for this showpiece game. He will clearly prove crucial to Real’s chances.
Kroos and Modric are going to prove critical to Real. Zidane's side are clearly going to have more possession despite the fact that they are probably more comfortable on the counterattack. The quality of that possession may prove a direct result of the control that Kroos and Modric are able to exert in centre of the park. If Atletico are able to turn that area into a quintessential Atletico feeding frenzy, Real may begin to grow more desperate in attack, with the full-backs perhaps bursting forward with too much abandon.
Experienced players such as Torres and Koke could exploit this space while the likes of Carrasco waiting in the wings should extra-time beckon. he absence of Benzema through a hamstring strain could also affect their potency up front.
Verdict: Halftime -Fulltime Double - Drawn first half with Atletico winning the second at 52/10
Real have only won one of their last ten encounters with Atletico since that fateful night in Lisbon. I think that after a tight first half, Real’s insistent pressing will result in some abandoned space for Atletico to exploit.