CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL | SPORTS PREVIEW
For the biggest match in European club football, it could only be the Principality Stadium. On Sat 3 June, Spanish giants Real Madrid face Serie A champions Juventus in the Champions League Final – an exhibition of world class attack and defence.
Indeed, the Old Lady’s defensive record has been impeccable both in Europe and domestically, having gone six games without conceding a Champions League goal and boasting the tightest defence in Italy with only 23 goals conceded. This, of course, is down to their stoic backline. The experience of Bonucci, Chiellini, Alves and Barzagli is unrivalled, but it is the legend in net that is integral to the Italian brick wall. Buffon enters the game looking to win his first Champions League medal after enduring disappointment in two finals, most recently in 2015. The world-cup winner will not only be relying on his defence, with the potent attack of Higuain and Dybala enough to seriously concern the Galacticos, especially after strolling past arch rivals Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
Regardless of the opposition, however, Real Madrid have the potential to arrive and be unplayable. With the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema and Isco – who is in scintillating form this season – they have torn defences apart in La Liga, and have proven their attacking prowess in the Champions League, boasting the highest goal count (32) and shot count (19.6) at the tournament. It would be a romantic return to Wales for Bale should he be fit to play the final – a notion coach Zidane has flirted with. Even without the Welsh magician though, a number of players have stepped up at the Bernabeu this season, proving their worth for the white shirt and causing selection dilemmas for coaches.
Winning the tournament twice in the past three years, Los Blancos will feel they have the experience, grit and skill to deliver a blow to the Italian heavyweights. However, having last seen European glory at Old Trafford, Juventus may, with their impressive defence and dynamic attack, feel the Principality Stadium could be an omen of success.
Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Sat 3 Jun. Tickets: Sold Out. Available on BT Sport. Info: www.uefa.com
words CONOR KNIGHT