The Champions League final has served up a local derby for the first time - Real Madrid against new La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action...
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid, Champions League Final
Saturday 19:45, ITV1 and Sky Sports 1
Match Odds: Real Madrid 2.01/1, Atletico Madrid 4.47/2, The Draw 3.613/5
The city of Madrid is taking over Lisbon for the weekend, and how the locals would love Cristiano Ronaldo to win his second Champions League in style. But Atletico Madrid won't be pushovers - Real might start as favourites, but Atletico have just recorded a remarkable title triumph, and surprisingly haven't wilted in the final stages of the campaign.
The first-ever local derby in a Champions League final promises a tight, tense and fascinating clash between two extremely exciting football sides, and two highly intelligent managers.
It should be a very interesting tactical battle between two sides excellent on the counter-attack, albeit in different ways - Real are about classic individual speed on the break, particularly from the flanks, while Atletico work better as a unit, pressing the opposition into submission before playing clever neat combinations to work the ball forward.
Both managers have a defined first XI - but a couple of unwanted selection headaches. Xabi Alonso's suspension means Carlo Ancelotti will be forced to choose between Asier Illaramendi, an Alonso in the making, and the more aggressive, tenacious Sami Khedira. The latter has been out for months with a knee injury and has only recently made his comeback, but he seems more likely to start. He's a more tenacious player with bite and mobility, and that could be crucial against this Atletico side, especially alongside the diminutive Luka Modric.
Diego Simeone, meanwhile, is sweating on the fitness of two key attacking weapons, who both limped off against Barcelona last weekend. Arda Turan and Diego Costa would both be huge misses - the latter scored 35% of Atletico's goals this season, and his strike partner David Villa hasn't scored for 13 matches. Turan, meanwhile, offers great ability on the break.
Their probable replacements would be Raul Garcia, who is an unconventional footballer perhaps most useful to this Atletico side because of his aerial ability. If played on the right, he would tower over Marcelo, as he did so crucially against Jordi Alba earlier in the competition, and Real would be vulnerable to long, high, diagonal balls into that zone.
Adrian Lopez would be the natural Costa replacement - he doesn't possess anything like Costa's goalscoring skills, having scored three in a season where he's usually been a substitute - but he does offer pace.
This could be a slow-burning game. Real generally play on the counter-attack in Europe, as seen in their brilliant 4-0 destruction of Bayern Munich in the semi-final - but Atletico won't come onto them in the way Pep Guardiola's side did.
Indeed, Atletico won La Liga averaging less than 50% of possession, and the key is how high they press. Do they pressurise Real's defenders and win the ball high up, or sit deeper and spring a midfield press, giving themselves more space to break into? They're brilliantly organised in either format, but this is a key decision for the shape of the game.
Real will inevitably look to Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, the world's two most expensive footballers, for their counter-attacking speed and goalscoring ability. But Angel Di Maria is arguably equally important for the attacking transitions - he speeds forward menacingly on the ball from a left-sided position, and recorded an astonishing 17 assists in 27 La Liga starts this season.
Atletico will also speed forward through their wide players on the break, but if Costa doesn't start, where will the goals in open play come from? Set-pieces might be a better bet, with some excellent headers of the ball throughout the side, plus some clever training-ground routines that have frequently surprised opponents.
The first goal in this match will be crucial. If Real score first, they'll be delighted to sit back, counter-attack, and would be confident of extending their lead. If Atletico score first, their excellent defensive record means they're capable of soaking up pressure and recording a clean sheet.
The question, of course, is who will score that first goal. I'm not sure, but I think it will take a while to arrive - so I'll back a half-time 0-0 at 2.915/8.
Back 0-0 in Half Time Score at 2.915/8
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
Atletico Madrid claimed their first La Liga title in 18 years after coming from behind to get the draw they needed at the Camp Nou. However, that result may have come at a cost - top scorer Diego Costa and main playmaker Arda Turan could be missing for the big final. On the other side of Madrid, team news is more buoyant; both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are expected to start. But Los Merengues will be without Xabi Alonso due to suspension.
While Atletico’s attacking options could be severely dented they are still a very solid outfit, and very difficult to break down. They conceded on average only 0.68 goals per game in La Liga and kept 20 clean sheets in their title winning campaign. As well as having the best defensive record in La Liga they can also boast the best defence in the Champions League. They are yet to suffer defeat in the competition, winning nine, drawing three and conceding only six goals en-route to the final.
In complete contrast, their city neighbours are the highest scorers in the competition this season, scoring 37 goals in 12 games – Opta tell us they are the only team in Champions League history to record over 3 goals per game in a single campaign (3.1). Their attacking credentials are also obvious in their league form - they only failed to score in two league games this season on their way to hitting 104 goals this campaign.
However, one of the teams that stopped them was Atletico Madrid, who recorded a 1-0 victory in the Bernabeu.
I think this game could go all the way, Atletico managed to get a draw last weekend when they needed it and I think that result could be repeated here. Nine of the last 10 European Cup/Champions League finals that have been level at 90 minutes have had to be decided on penalties.
So instead of backing The Draw at 3.6, I will take a chance on that trend continuing and dutch backing Real Madrid Penalties @ 12.5 & Atletico Madrid Penalties @ 13.5 in the Method of Victory market before kickoff, giving dutched odds of approx 6.5.