Juventus come into this final with memories of the 1998 final which they lost to Real Madrid, but the freshest heart break lies in the recent loss to another Spanish side, FC Barcelona in 2015.
It’s like finding yourself in between rock and a hard place the moment you start figuring out who should win this contest that will have more to write beyond just the Championship.
The fact that this looks like Gianluigi Buffon’s most probable shot at a Champions League trophy, coming against a Real Madrid that has looked formidable this season leaves you fazed when reflecting on what could transpire after the final whistle.
A final featuring the most reserved team of the campaign against the most explosive side that has scored the most goals (32), proves there is a lot to be looked at beyond just the game.
The Bianconeri have lost the most finals in the Champions League, winning only two of the eight times they have featured. However, Real who have won the most titles, and are up for the duodecima, are a nemesis to themselves this season. No team has ever defended the Champions League. Only AC Milan, 1995, Ajax, 1996, Juventus in 1997 and Manchester United in 1999, have come close, but still failed.
The two sides have more than history to consider, stretching beyond the players to the managers.
Zinedine Zidane lost a final to the side he has helped win it as a player and as a coach. And now, he faces the side he was playing for with the team he lost against 19-years back.
The former players and the big stage gives chance to Gonzalo Higuain and Sami khedira to emulate Alvaro Morata’s 2015 feat that saw him eject his would be former employers. But since his return to the Valdebebas he has been relegated to the bench and may have no option to punish his former side in the same manner.
But who knows? Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane has managed to successfully work with his rotation policy, managing to keep all players important to the squad.
Defending with stealth is one thing, but how long you last before conceding is another. Real Madrid have been a deceitful side this season and managed to switch game plans from leaving it late, to winning early.
That was one of the secrets that outlasted Barcelona and coped with the pressure that came with a few mistakes, to winning the la liga, their first in five years.
Of course, defending is one team attribute that has seen Juventus triumph in the Serie A for the past six years, the true definition of Italian football.
How defending can be effective depends on how well you can sit back. However, venturing forward is a very important part of the game and how well Juve can balance the two transitional moments will depend on how Madrid respond from the bench.
For the past three seasons, Real Madrid are a side that has proven too tough to outlast by any opponent, beating Atletico Madrid in two finals after normal time. This season, Bayern Munich suffered a similar fate, suffering a 4-2 loss at the quarter finals in extra time in Spain. And that, has not been without the hunger that comes from the bench.
Juventus have had a good run in this campaign managing twelve games without defeat. However, towards the final, Monaco penetrated the seemingly water proof back-line when youngster, Kylian Mbappe, scored only the third goal against the Italian side in the campaign, before Roma routing the Italian Champions 3-1 a few days later. Now, can Real Madrid find space in between the Juventus back-line?
Madrid have learned so well to adapt to situation, and I wouldn’t be wrong to say, Zidane, a student of Italian football, has taught the team how to play the Italian way when the ball is out of reach. The best example came against Bayern who failed to score from Open play at the Bernabeu even after the return of sharp shooter Robert Lewandowski against a less experienced Nacho Fernandez.
The return of Gareth Bale provides Zinedine Zidane with more options, save me the selection headache that brings Isco into the picture. With Isco, Possession and ball romance are guaranteed, while with Bale makes the cut when it comes to directness and pace. Whatever Zidane needs is to choose what works best between Possession and Directness.
With Toni Kroos, Modric and Casemiro, you are guaranteed to have the ball, but Isco makes it better in terms of blending the middle and allowing for Modric and Kroos to get more involved in more advanced positions. With Bale, running and physic are better in the final third to gel with Ronaldo and Benzema but the middle always suffers.
With a workaholic and hard tackling midfield coupled with the second line of attack that plays deeper, it remains a question of who can stop the youthful Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic from hurting Real’s back-line from the counter and aerial duels.
Dani Alves has been so instrumental being involved in all the goals Juventus scored at the semifinals. Providing three and scoring the other, means he’s been a key player in the Italian side’s attack especially from the right as Mandzukic’s appearance down the left has been drawn so much into defending.
Real Madrid have the two full backs in Dani Carvajal and Marcelo whose attacking influence has been felt for long this season. Carvajal’s crosses and break through down the right are good but are just an inch less of what Marcelo has to the overall impact on the team. If Juventus allow the two space to run in, it will be easier for Madrid to hurt them from the width.
Can history stand for Juventus and against Real Madrid, or will it just be a dark day for the two sides?
- An Italian team has won the Champions league after every seven years. Juventus in 1996, AC Milan in 2003, Inter Milan in 2010. Could this be Juventus’s year?
- Juventus have not won the Champions League in their white and black kit, but the only time Real Madrid came close to winning the trophy with purple as color was in 1998 when the Colar and stripes of their famous white shirt were in the coveted color.
Can Zidane bring more history to the Spanish Club, defending the Championship, in the same year after winning the Club World Cup and a league and European Cup double?
Can football reward one of the dying breeds with a first Champions League gold, and a potential Ballon D’or to a goalkeeper for the first time since 1963?
All the answers rest somewhere before or after Extra time.
On one hand, I wish that Real will break the record, winning consecutive Champions Leagues for the first time, and also a league and European Cup double for the first time since 1958.
But at the same time, I hope that football gives Gianluigi Buffon a Ballon d’Or and also another title at the highest level. What he has done is just magnificent.
Sadly, I am in the same position as Balague is.
For God so appreciated effort that he gave his begotten son, Cristiano Ronaldo a national team Championship, the Euro 2016. Lest the veteran fall out of grace. For he has done more good to the game from the back. Let it be as it was in the end, Amen.