Real Madrid and Juventus are all set to lock horns in Cardiff. Will the Spanish giant become the first team to win consecutive Champions League titles, or will the Italian club hoist the coveted trophy for the first time since 1996?
Below, a collection of theScore’s football writers make their picks ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Carlo Campo: Four clean sheets in the group stage. Two clean sheets in the Round of 16 tie against FC Porto. Two more in the quarter-final tie against Barcelona. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar couldn’t unlock Dani Alves, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Alex Sandro. AS Monaco only scored once in the semi-finals after putting six goals past Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. Juventus is entering the final having conceded three goals in the tournament. What reason is there to believe Real Madrid is capable of doing what Europe’s other attacking juggernauts couldn’t? Score: Juventus 1, Real Madrid 0
Michael J. Chandler: Not since AC Milan in 1990 has a team repeated as European Cup winner – it’s never happened under the current Champions League format – and that streak will continue with Juventus taking Saturday’s clash in extra time. Striker-cum-left-winger Mario Mandzukic will be the unexpected hero with a late winner as the Old Lady captures its third Spanish scalp this season on the heels of a group stage victory over Sevilla and a one-sided defeat of Barcelona at the quarter-final stage. Score: Juventus 2, Real Madrid 1
(Photo courtesy: Action Images)
Gordon Brunt: The adoring fans of Gianluigi Buffon will be robbed, once again, of the chance to see the famous Juventus ‘keeper hoist football’s most coveted prize. Similar to the 2015 final against Barcelona, the timing isn’t on Juve’s side as the Serie A champion attempts to dethrone a Real Madrid squad bursting with confidence on the heels winning La Liga, as well as dismantling Bayern Munich and humbling the great Manuel Neuer in the semi-finals. Although Cristiano Ronaldo and company have the almighty challenge of attempting to penetrate Juve’s defensive fortress, expect Buffon to lead the charge when the Bianconeri collect their runners-up medals. Score: Real Madrid 2, Juventus 1
Anthony Lopopolo: Juventus has never had a better chance of winning the Champions League, and that’s exactly what it’ll do. Although Real Madrid has the big-game experience, Juventus has an overall superior squad, with a rock-solid defence, ambitious full-backs, dynamic midfielders, and interchanging forwards. Manager Massimiliano Allegri, with the help of fresh transfer funds, has built a serial winner in Italy and a real contender in Europe, using a more fluid 4-2-3-1 formation all season with Champions League success in mind. The Bianconeri showed against Barcelona they can stop the flow of goals while scoring some themselves. Madrid may have Ronaldo, Luka Modric, and Sergio Ramos, but Juventus can cancel out all three. Score: Juventus 2, Real Madrid 1
Armen Bedakian: The narrative will surely centre around Real Madrid’s all-out offensive blitz and Juventus’ stoic defensive stand, and this could ultimately come down to Juve’s handling of Ronaldo. That’s where Alves could prove decisive – if anybody has insight on how to slow the Portuguese star, it would be him. The two have had their run-ins in El Clasico, of course, and no one is better equipped to help concoct a plan to stymie Ronaldo than the Brazilian right-back. If Alves can help take Ronaldo out of the game and Juventus can finish its chances – we’re looking at you, Gonzalo Higuain – then Buffon can finally lift the Champions League prize. Score: Juventus 1, Real Madrid 0