Champions League Final Preview
This is Real Madrid’s 13th European Cup final, and they will be aiming to capture their 10th title. Atletico Madrid’s previous European Cup final came in 1974 against Bayern Munich. Should they triumph in Lisbon, Atletico would become champions of Europe for the 1st time and would be the 23rd club to lift the European Cup. Diego Simeone could become only the third non-European coach to win the European Cup, the first two were also Argentinian.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico stunned Spain and the rest of Europe by clinching La Liga and reaching the Champions League final in Lisbon. Make no mistake, this is no one season wonder. They finished 9th in 2010, then 7th in 2011, 5th in 2012 and 3rd in 2013. They won the Europa League in both 2010 and 2012. On both occasions they went on to win the UEFA Super Cup beating reigning European Champions Internazionale and Chelsea. As well as astounding European progress, they also clinched the Copa Del Rey in 2012.
In this season’s Primera Division, they lost just 4 league games all season, all away from their own Vicente Calderón Stadium and surprisingly all to lowly opposition. Their record against the top 4 clubs: Barca, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla is outstanding, reading 4 wins and 4 draws. Just 26 goals were conceded in 38 league games, by far the best record in the division.
They have been equally impressive in the Champions League, winning 5 from 6 group games and conceding just 3 goals. They continued that form into the knockout stages, gaining an impressive 1-0 win at the San Siro against Clarence Seedorf’s rejuvenated Milan. They were full of confidence in the 2nd leg as they trounced Milan 4-1. The quarter finals paired them with domestic rivals Barcelona. A 1-1 draw in the Camp Nou and a thoroughly deserved 1-0 2nd leg home win gained Atletico the adulation they have deserved all season. The semi final against Mourinho’s Chelsea further highlighted their impressive temperament on the big stage. The 3 knockout rounds saw Atletico concede just 3 goals in 6 games against Europe’s elite. The 2nd leg of the knockout rounds saw Atletico at their most organised yet ruthless best.
In stark statistics, Atletico have been a relentless machine. In 12 Champions League games this season, Simeone’s men have won 9 games and drawn 3. They remain undefeated in the competition, scoring 25 times, an average of 2.08 a game and conceding just 6, an average of 0.5 goals per game.
Carlo Ancelotti’s current Real Madrid squad have undoubtedly lived up to the swagger and confidence of the institution that is Real Madrid C.F. They are the most successful club in world football and are famous for Di Stefano, Puskas, Santillana, Michel, Butragueno, Raul, Figo, Zidane and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. However, despite the undoubted glamour, Real’s recent record is less than stellar. Most fans would be stunned to know that Real have won just 1 single La Liga in 6 seasons. This season’s appearance in the final in Lisbon will be Real’s first Champions League final in 12 years. In those 12 season’s Barca, Manchester United, AC Milan and Bayern Munich have all reached 3 finals each.
Ancelotti’s side has sent mixed signals in recent months. They capitulated meekly in La Liga. Their last 10 league games saw just 5 victories. In the crucial last 4 league games, Los Blancos won just once. A glance at those last 10 league games will show that when Madrid are good, they are virtually unstoppable but they have been erratic. They failed to score in just 2 of the 38 league games, crucially, once was against Atletico Madrid. However, they did score an incredible 104 league goals, an average of 2.74 per game. and their goal difference was +66.
In the Champions League, they cruised through an average group, winning 5 games from 6, scoring a phenomenal 20 goals and only dropping points by drawing with Italian champions Juventus in Turin. Real’s scoring power of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo moved into a higher gear in the knockout rounds: 6 against Schalke, 3 against Schalke, 3 against Dortmund, 1 against Bayern Munich and 3 against Bayern Munich. Overall, from 12 Champions League games, they have emerged victorious in 10, drawn 1 and lost just 1. They have scored 37 times an average of 3.08 goals a game and conceded 9, an average of 0.75 per game. They have been undeniably formidable, particularly in that now famous semi final 2nd leg in Munich where it is often overlooked that Guardiola’s men failed to score over 2 legs and the 180 minutes. However, their one defeat, in the quarter final 2nd leg, away in Dortmund must be noted. Real were lucky to not to have conceded a further 3 or 4 to Klopp’s energetic side as their attacking personnel floundered.
Atletico have had a slight edge in this season’s fixtures between the 2 local rivals, Diego Costa scoring the only goal at the Santiago Bernabéu in September to give Atletico a 1-0 win, before a 2-2 draw at the Vicente Calderón in March. Crucially, Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey semi-final, with a powerful 3-0 victory in the home first leg and a 2-0 away win to give a 5-0 aggregate victory.
Ominously, in those 4 games, Ronaldo scored 3 goals, albeit twice from the penalty spot. In his time in Spain, Ronaldo has netted 12 goals in 13 appearances in all competitions against Atletico. He has scored 16 of Real’s 37 Champions League goals, that is 43%. The World Player of the year has also had the highest number of shots per game of any player in this year’s tournament: an average of 6.7. Surprisingly, given their fame for all out attack, Real do not have the highest number of shots per game, that stat belongs to Juventus. Although Real did have an average of 15.9 shots per game, the 4th highest. Also, the “BBC”: Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo have scored 71% of Real’s total Champions League goals. But as a sign of Real’s fluidity as a team, Benzema, Di Maria and Bale all rank in the competition’s Top 5 for assists. Defensively, Real conceded a relatively high number of shots on their own goal, an average of 13.9, only the 19th best defensive stat. Interestingly, of the 32 competing clubs, Real have made the 2nd fewest fouls per game, just 8.9.
Atletico’s Diego Costa has scored 8 goals in 8 Champions League outings this year. His tally represents 32% of Atletico’s total. Atletico have had an average of 14.2 of shots per game which is the 7th highest of all 32 teams. Defensively, they number of shots they conceded on their own goal, was an average of 12.2, the 13th lowest of all Champions League teams. Simeone’s side has impressed with their work ethic and this has resulted in Atletico making the highest number of tackles per game, an average of 25.7. This has also resulted in alot of fouls: an average of 15.5 per game, the 7th highest of all sides and almost 3 times the number of Real Madrid. Atletico have not lost in 13 European fixtures, since a 2-0 home defeat by Rubin Kazan in last season’s UEFA Europa League.
Neither side has benefited from an own goal in this year’s tournament, neither side has had a player sent off and both sides have scored just 1 penalty. Also, they both rank high in goals scored from set pieces. Atletico are on top with 9 goals and Real rank 3rd with 6 goals.
Carlo Ancelotti has been keen to play down the significance of injuries to Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. CR7 withdrew with a reported hamstring problem during the pre-match warm-up prior to the game against Espanyol. Benzema was replaced by in the 67th minute against Espanyol.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone has worries over the fitness of two key players ahead of next weekend’s match in Lisbon. Star striker Diego Costa was forced off at the Camp Nou in the 16th minute after pulling up with a hamstring problem while Arda Turan limped off with a pelvic complaint. There has been no official word on approximate recovery times.