Real Madrid (+145) vs Atletico Madrid (+210), Draw (+215)
For the second time in three years, the UEFA Champions League will see an all-Madrid finale as Real Madrid (9-1-2) square off with crosstown rival Atletico Madrid (7-3-2) at San Siro Stadium in Milan (Saturday, May 28, at 2:45 PM Eastern).
Back in 2014, Atletico were poised to capture their first Champions League trophy, leading 1-0 until Real equalized in the 93rd minute and then won it with three goals in extra time.
If Atletico are going to reverse their fortunes this time around, they’ll have to do so as underdogs. Real have lost just one game this UCL season (2-0 when they visited Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals) and, since Zinedine Zidane took over the coaching duties in December, have found the balance lacking with under Rafa Benitez.
The two goals Real gave up to Wolfsburg were the only tallies they conceded in the knockout phase. (They blanked Roma, 4-0 on aggregate, in the Round of 16, and Man City, 1-0 on aggregate, in the semis.)
In total, they’ve surrendered just five goals in 12 UCL matches, and starting goalie Keylor Navas was only in net for two of those. The Costa Rican has become one of the best players on the team and is starting to rival Manuel Neuer as the best keeper in the world.
There are reasons to like Atletico heading into the final, though. The biggest one is the discrepancy in competition the two teams have faced. Atletico have knocked off world powers Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the last two stages, while Real have had a comparatively easy run, and haven’t looked that dominant, to boot. They needed to comeback from two down against Wolfsburg, and only got past Man City thanks to an own-goal.
Atletico’s performances against Bayern and Barcelona, on the other hand, were near-perfect. Their almost impregnable defensive schemes held those teams – arguably the two best offensive clubs in the world – to just one goal per game over four matches. On the UCL season as a whole, Atletico are giving up a paltry 0.4 GPG.
Atletico are 1-1-0 against Real this season, winning on the road (1-0) and drawing at home (0-0) in La Liga action. Cristiano Ronaldo is having a great a year as any, but the rest of the Real offense isn’t quite as fluid as it was back in 2014. I expect a defensive battle in the final, a style that will play into Atletico’s hands. Roll with the Colchoneros to avenge their 2014 heartbreak.
Pick: Atletico Madrid (+210).
(Photo credit: LauraHale CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)