By now you’ve figured out that the Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid is all of a few days away. Both teams have had media days at their respective complexes, with players answering questions that they’ve probably known they would hear ever since they got past the semifinals.
The good thing in all of this is that we’re one day closer to the final actually being played.
We’ve already discussed what Juventus will have to do to have a chance of winning against Real Madrid this Saturday night in Cardiff. Now, we’re taking more of a look at the Spanish champions, posing the question about what aspect of their game is the biggest concern for Max Allegri and his Juventus squad.
There’s a high probability that Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who is lighting up the Champions League once again this season, is mentioned once or twice. That’s just what happens when you score hat trick after hat trick on the European stage.
So we’ve assembled our nine-person crew once again to answer one of the hardest-hitting questions ever posed here on BWRAO. Now, for the second of our three pre-Champions League final roundtables...
Three things — their depth, their pace and the fact that they might be a hell lot better than people give them credit for (which I bloody well hate to admit).
The first two issues speak for themselves, but the last point deserves some more attention. They went on a barely believable 40-game unbeaten streak, have had poor games in the league that they really should have lost but still managed to rescue (e.g. Depor home, Gijón away, Valencia home), and did all this while playing an astonishing 12 games in 38 days between April 2 and May 10. As we all know from following Juventus over the years — and as much as I hate to admit this in relation to Real Madrid because I genuinely dislike them — these are hallmarks of champions, and that really worries me.
The thing that scares me about Real Madrid the most is its killer instinct in Champions League finals. Real have remarkably only lost three times in 14 appearances in the cup final, and that is a testament to their ability to win the trophy once they get to the latter stages of the tournament. Conversely, Juventus have lost six times in eight appearances and often times in those six losses, against inferior opponents.
Real Madrid will almost definitely come out with an A-plus effort; will Juventus follow suit? If we match Real pound for pound on Saturday, there is a very big chance Gigi Buffon will be stepping off the plane at Caselle airport with some big shiny ears.
The inverse is probably the most concerning thing about Real. They are clinical as hell. Ronaldo in particular won't miss when presented with a credible target. If they're given an opening, they'll pounce, at which point it will be a question of whether Gigi can get to the ball. The way to counter this is to prevent them from getting opportunities at all. The supply lines have to be cut off. Especially important is keeping a lid on Luka Modric. His absence was a big factor in Juve's semifinal win over Real two years ago, and the BBC and Co. have to make sure he can't create.
If Juventus of this year have been the textbook example of efficiency and champion mentality when it comes to getting the job done, the Madrid squad have perfected that art over the past few years. I would have felt more comfortable in calling this a 50-50 tie had it been over two legs. In the one off game with no real home court advantage to speak of, the scales have to be tipped slightly in their favour, say 45-55. They know how to win. The CL in particular. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Ramos can't help but rise to the occasion. One can only hope that the leadership of the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Dani Alves in particular, might finally give us the cutting edge required to bring the Big Ears home to Turin this time around.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s form. People said once his speed leaves him as he gets older he won’t be as dominant. His pace has dwindled but his move to a center forward position has seen him arguably become the best No. 9 in Europe. He scored 8 goals between the ties with Bayern and Atletico. I know if any defence can keep him at bay its Juve’s but it’s still a daunting prospect coming up against such goalscorer.
The consistent moments of brilliance in big games, specifically from Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos. While I don’t think that Ramos is an elite defender, for some reason he always seems to come up clutch with a big goal in these games. Ronaldo will also want to increase his chances for his bid for the Ballon D’or, so there will be no lack of motivation from him either. This is why I would prefer to play Real Madrid over two legs. They just have these moments of brilliance and with 90 minutes, we may not have time to answer them.
Sergio Ramos headers from set pieces. And all the balls we concede in UCL are from set pieces.
I've heard that Real have a pretty decent winger, and I'm also worried about Marcelo at the fullback position (his 10 assists in La Liga are good for tied-third), but what worries me most is Real's bench, partly because it contrasts with Juve's lack of depth. The Spanish side bring Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio, and James Rodriguez off the bench.
Madrid have shown multiple times this season that they are laden with talent, and even when Cristiano Ronaldo is not firing on all cylinders, some one else has stepped up to fill the breach. That strength in depth is pretty terrifying and it will not be enough for Juve to silence just one or two of the Real players, it's going to take a concerted team effort.
I hate esoteric terms in sports. However, I am nervous about Real Madrid DNA. One way or another Los Blancos know how to win, especially in the Champions League. A Sergio Ramos late score worries me. But, Álvaro Morata literally gives me nightmares. Mr. Champions League was a key player for Juventus in this tournament, now he will be on the opposite side. According to some Spanish newspapers, there is bad blood between Zidane and Morata. But if Real is in troubles, I have no doubt that Morata will have minutes on Wales. Alvaro has proved that he can be lethal in this kind of matches.