Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid go head-to-head in the Champions League final for the second time in two years as a Spanish side is set to win a European trophy for the fourth time in five seasons.
The last calendar year where a Spanish team failed to reach a final or win a trophy in continental competition was in 2013, when Bayern won the Champions League and Chelsea the Europa League. Because of Sevilla’s Europa League final win against Liverpool last week, European competition is once again dominated by Spain.
For Real Madrid, this is their 14th Champions League final in total, and their fourth since the turn of the century. They won all of the previous three, two of which came against Spanish opposition. Atleti have only been in two Champions League finals, which came 40 years apart. Both ended with late drama and eventual defeat for Atleti.
Previous five meetings between the sides
- Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid (February 2016)
- Atletico Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid (October 2015)
- Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid (April 2015)
- Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid (April 2015)
- Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Madrid (February 2015)
The last five meetings between the two clubs show two patterns – the results have been fairly one-sided and don’t tend to see a lot of goals. In fact, the last four meetings have seen the same amount of goals combined as Atleti’s 4-0 win 14 months ago.
If we look even further back to the previous 10 meetings between the two, the results go even more in Atleti’s favour. Real have won just one of the last 10 games against Atleti, and haven’t beaten them in La Liga for three years.
Despite Atleti’s dominance in recent meetings, everybody knows that previous results tend to count for nothing in cup finals, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top on Saturday.
How Atletico Madrid made it to the Champions League final
Both sides qualified from their respective groups relatively comfortably, but for Atleti, the knockout stages proved to be the real test. Diego Simeone’s side only managed to win out knockout tie without the help of added time, although that did come against Spanish opposition in the shape of last season’s winners Barcelona.
They also set a new European record in becoming the first team to complete a two-legged knockout game with extra time and fail to score or concede. Their game against PSV in the last 16 ended 0-0 over 210 minutes of football, with Atleti eventually winning 8-7 on penalties.
- Galatasaray 0-2 Atletico Madrid
- Atletico Madrid 1-2 Benfica
- Atletico Madrid 4-0 Astana
- Astana 0-0 Atletico Madrid
- Atletico Madrid 2-0 Galatasaray
- Benfica 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Knockout rounds (aggregate score, individual scores in brackets):
- Atletico Madrid 0-0 PSV (0-0 both legs, Atleti won 8-7 pens – last 16)
- Atletico Madrid 3-2 Barcelona (1-2 first leg, 2-0 second leg – quarter-final)
- Atletico Madrid *2-2 Bayern Munich (1-0 first leg, 1-2 second leg – semi-final)
How Real Madrid made it to the Champions League final
For Real, it was much of the same. They qualified top of the groups without losing a game, but found it difficult to progress in the knockout stages.
They were being led by Zinedine Zidane, who had no previous managerial experience in the Champions League, although he played in and scored the winner in a final back in 2002.
Cristiano Ronaldo continued his phenomenal scoring record in the Champions League, pulling clear of Lionel Messi in the all-time top scorers in the competition. He needs just one more goal to match his tally of 17 in Real’s 2014 success.
- Real Madrid 4-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
- Malmö FF 0-2 Real Madrid
- PSG 0-0 Real Madrid
- Real Madrid 1-0 PSG
- Shakhtar Donetsk 3-4 Real Madrid
- Real Madrid 8-0 Malmö FF
Knockout stages (aggregate score, individual scores in brackets):
- Real Madrid 4-0 Roma (2-0 both legs – last 16)
- Real Madrid 3-2 Wolfsburg (0-2 first leg, 3-0 second leg – quarter-final)
- Real Madrid 1-0 Manchester City (0-0 first leg, 1-0 second leg – semi-final)
Over the past few weeks, there has been concern about Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness. The 31-year-old had played nearly every minute of Real’s season before suffering an injury which kept him out of games against Manchester City and Rayo Vallecano.
After seemingly overcoming the injury, there was fresh doubt with the winger limping out of training in midweek, although he was quick to reassure fans that he was alright to play and that it wasn’t a serious injury.
Raphael Varane is the only Real player definitely out of the final with injury. The French defender suffered a hamstring injury in training on Monday, with tests confirming it was serious enough to rule him out of action for over a month, delivering a fatal blow to not only his Champions League aspirations, but also his hopes of playing in Euro 2016.
For Atletico Madrid, there appears to be no injuries in the squad and no players are banned from either side. There was concern that Diego Godin may not be fully fit, but those rumours have since been quashed and he looks set to start a final which he scored in two years ago.
Pre-match comments (Atletico Madrid)
Diego Simeone told the media he wasn’t out for revenge after the result in 2014, but that this was an opportunity for Atleti to get one over on their closest rivals:
There is no such thing as revenge in football, or in life for that matter, just new opportunities.
‘Revenge’ is a negative word, because it harks back to a defeat; on the other hand, ‘opportunity’ is about optimism, confidence and what’s to come, and that’s what we want to show in the Champions League.
The Argentine was also quick to point out that Atleti have played and knocked out two of the biggest sides in world football already this season:
We’ve already played two of the top three teams in the world and now we’re facing the third in the final. Madrid are different to Barcelona and Bayern; they’re a much more direct team who are a massive threat from set pieces.
We’ll be ready and will look to play the game on our terms. Fingers crossed, that will be enough for us to do what we want, which is to win.
He was also quick to play down talk of possibly completing the European trophy haul with Atleti, having already won the Europa League and the Super Cup:
I think talk is cheap – when I hear people say what they’d like to happen, I think it’s empty. You have to live in the present.
Of course we’ll prepare ourselves to win. It won’t come down to what I want; it’ll come down to how much effort we put in.
Pre-match comments (Real Madrid)
2016 has been a big year for Real Madrid, in particular Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman was within a point of beating Barcelona to the title, and he took five months to reach his first final with Real Madrid – now he’s looking to win a first major honour as a manager.
When asked about what his greatest challenge was in his short career so far, this was what he had to say:
When I took over it was a new thing for me, but we had to win games and be ready right away. We worked hard right away for three weeks to prepare, as we were out of the Spanish Cup.
That work was very important, especially physically. And then we had to win our games. That’s what we’ve been doing, and now we’ve reached the end of the season and still have the most important game of the campaign to go.
The 43-year-old was quick to praise opponents Atleti ahead of the final, describing them as a ‘special’ opponent:
Atlético are special opponents; they’ve beaten the two other best teams in Europe, so it will be a very difficult game.
They will defend really well as they always do, but I don’t think you can say that Atlético Madrid are a team that only defends; they play good football too, and can make it difficult for their opponents. We know that, we’ll prepare for it and we’ll try to play our game so that we don’t have any regrets at the end.
Finally, he was asked just how it felt to be managing Real after playing for them as a player in the early 2000s:
Playing for Real Madrid was the best thing that ever happened to me. I dreamed of playing for Real Madrid – I wanted to wear that famous white shirt.
It all came true thanks to the president who brought me here as a player. And now I’m lucky enough to coach the greatest club in the world, so I’m a happy man.
Expected teams and prediction
Atletico Madrid: Oblak, Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez/Savic, Filipe Luis, Gabi, Augusto, Koke, Saul, Griezmann, Torres.
Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid