Friday, May 23, 2014

Madrid Showdown in Lisbon

All Madrid has been restless this week with the upcoming showdown between Real and Atletico in the UCL final at Lisbon. The Whites are going in as favorites with the bookies but this confrontation looks very evenly-matched on paper.

Real Madrid have been talking about La Decima for a few years now; their obsession for a 10th European Cup triumph has been voiced clear and loud. They came close to reaching the final in the past few years and have finally made it this year. On any day, they have the squad to beat any team. The reason being that, they have not only Christiano Ronaldo, but also Gareth Bale, who are one of a handful of players in the world that can turn a match on its head at any time. Ronaldo has shown it time and again, whether at Man Utd or at Real. Bale has shown it in this year's Copa Final where he scored a spectacular solo goal, against the run of play, against a menacing Barcelona. That goal finally exposed his explosiveness on the grand stage and shut down any critics that thought he wasn't worth the price tag Real paid for him. To have any chance, Atletico need to shut down Bale and Ronaldo. On the defensive side, Real are sweating on the availability of Pepe. More importantly, they will miss the organizational skills of Alonso, who's suspended for the match.

Atletico are this year's winners of La Liga after a titanic battle with Real and Barcelona. While no-one really expected them to last the distance, they showed amazing character and resilience to fend off two rivals with vastly superior squad names and resources. What Diego Simone has achieved this season with this team is more than spectacular. They might not be household names but the likes of Costa, Godin, Koke and Arda make a touch bunch that have been near-impossible to crack. They have found it easy to score when needed and are mightily difficult to be scored against. This team can give any other team a run for their money. The worrying thing for Atletico fans is the fitness of star striker Costa. His availability will be instrumental in their chances of scoring and winning. 

Both sides have huffed and puffed since reaching the final. It is clear that the season has taken its toll. Ronaldo and Costa have missed the last weeks' of matches because of injury. Their form, let alone their fitness or disposition, will  have an impact. The other intangible to consider is Simone. He has yet to lose a major final as manager. He's proven he has the motivational skills to get the best out of his over-performing players and a victory in this ultimate challenge would be the crowning achievement of a dream season.

I have little doubt this is going to be close. It might go to extra-time, maybe even penalties. My feeling is that Atletico will prevail in the end. Just a feeling, nothing concrete to back it up. I find them overpriced/under-valued on the exchanges or with bookies. The recipe for them to win is simple; keep Bale and Ronaldo at a distance and score as they usually do. Have a great final!

Win Final: Atletico Madrid

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