The traditional curtain closer of each footballing season in Europe, the UEFA 2016 Champions League final, is fast approaching. After an entire season of qualifiers, group stage games and knockout rounds, we finally know the two teams which will compete for the ultimate club trophy in Milan on the 28th of March 2016.
The game itself is a replay of the 2014 final, which means that the city of Madrid will add to its already impressive trophy collection. Will Real triumph once again in front of Atletico, for the overall eleventh time in the competition, or will Atletico break the deadlock and win their first Champions League?
Both teams had a rather bumpy road up to the final, making some very surprising appearances. Real finished top in a group with PSG, Shakhtar, and Malmo, winning 5 games and making one draw, then proceeded to demolish Roma in the first knockout round.
The quarter-final was one of the most surprising games of the competition, with Real overturning a 0-2 loss in Germany against Wolfsburg with a 3-0 win in Spain, thanks to a great hat trick by Cristiano Ronaldo. The semi-final was one of the most boring in recent years, with the Spaniards winning with a 1-0 aggregate score against Manchester City.
On the other hand, Atletico’s road has been by far the most surprising in the competition. Finishing top of a rather easy group with Benfica, Galatasaray, and Astana, their knockout round games were nothing short of spectacular.
A penalty victory against PSV after two goalless draws, overturning a 1-2 loss at Camp Nou against Barcelona with a 2-0 win at home, and an away goals win against Bayern, with Griezmann scoring a decisive goal in Germany.
They managed all these great results by playing disciplined, strong, simple football, very much relying on counter attacks of individual genius (like Saul’s wonderful goal against Bayern). But will this be enough for them to win the final?
2016 CL FINAL: REAL MADRID vs ATLETICO MADRID
The actual game will be a clash of two disciplines. Zidane’s side plays beautiful, attacking football and their forward trio (Ronaldo, Benzema, and Bale) is one of the best in footballing history. Couple this with players like Ramos, Modric or Marcelo and you’ve got a very well-polished team, led by a coach which is hungry for success.
On the other side, Simeone taught his team to play each game like it was a war – Atletico uses every trick in the book to come out on top, and they’ve done that brilliantly so far. Their midfield is full of talent and has an immense work rate while Griezmann is one of the best and most inspired players this season.
From a bookmaker perspective, the final is relatively one-sided, with Real’s odds to win being 2.40 or 7/5, while Atlletico has the second chance with 3.20 or 11/5. Other bets stand out rather easily – a small number of goals (2-3) at most because Atletico never conceded more than 2 the entire season.
Betting on a high number of corners can also be good, due to the fact that Real will most probably have lots of shots on goal and actions close to Jan Oblak. Also, yellow cards are sure to be a common occurrence – Atletico received an average of 5 per game while Real has their own players which usually get booked – Ramos, Modric, Casemiro, Pepe, even Ronaldo for diving or arguing with officials.
The Champions League final clearly gives you more than enough betting options. A selection of few goals (under 2,5), Real winning and over 2,5, 5 yellow cards seems like a good pick for this year’s final. It will probably look more like a war than a football game, but when you’re this close to winning the trophy, it really isn’t surprising. Both teams will do everything in their power to win.