This year’s Champions League final makes for an interesting battle. Nobody was confident that an Atlético team would get past Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side. In the same vein, nobody expected Madrid to go to the Allianz Arena and grab a 4-0 win. Well, those things happened and a Madrideleno derby beckons.
The stage couldn’t be set any better. Atlético Madrid are having the season of their lives in that they have just completed one of the biggest achievements in modern day football: Overcoming the Barca/ Real duopoly and winning La Liga. Barca have Leo Messi, Real Cristiano Ronaldo. Those two have been in the Top 3 of the Ballon d’ Or running every year since 2007. Playing for the first time in the competition in 4 years in the Champions League they were seen as the outsiders of the last 8.The fact that they lost Falcao last summer makes their successful season more remarkable. A final against their Madrid neighbours who have been on the receiving end of an away beating and a near home victory scuppered by a last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo equalizer would be a great way for Simeone’s men to complete the job. The Copa Del Rey was a sore point as they were easily swept aside by a Madrid side who seem better suited to knock out competitions.
On the flip side, you have Real Madrid, 9 times European Champions. A club where money is no expense as coaches and players have been dispensed in pursuit of the holy grail, La Decima: a 10th European crown. This is their first final since the 2002 win where Zinedine Zidane, now assistant to Carlo Ancelotti scored one of the most memorable goals in the history of the game. They have notably the best attack in the world, in form of the BBC triumvirate: Bale, Benzema and Cristiano. Ronaldo is the highest scorer in the competition with a record 16 goals and should flourish when tasked with putting on a display for the enjoyment of his home crowd. They are the notably more experienced side. They are also at their best in one off games where an incentive on both teams to take control of the game plays into their devastating counter attacks. This is a team, far from perfect though. Xabi Alonso, the deep lying midfielder would be missing. Recent draws against Valencia and Valladolid indicate some fragility. Two games which had they won would have enhanced their title aspirations greatly.
Little note; for the past 6 years the team who’s conquered Barcelona has gone on to win the competition.
For Diego Simeone, it is an opportunity to stake his claim as the new managerial wonderkid. His recent alliance with Jorge Mendes and Peter Kenyon indicates a man fully aware of the impending arc of upward mobility. For the respected Carlo Ancelotti, an elite manager in every sense of the word, a 3rd Champions League winners medal beckons. He could join Bob Paisley as the most successful manager in the history of the European game. Not bad for a man who was sacked in deplorable fashion by Roman Abramovich.
May the best man win.