Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid go head-to-head with the Champions League on the line in a repeat of the 2013/14 final, in which Los Blancos claimed their tenth European Cup (7.45pm Saturday, BT Sport Europe).
Atletico have had to do things the hard way in the Champions League this term. They defeated holders Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals and Bayern Munich on away goals in the last four. Dutch champions PSV almost put Diego Simeone’s (pictured) men out in the round of 16 but Atleti prevailed on penalties, with the Colchoneros seemingly growing stronger as the tournament has gone on.
Having come so close in Lisbon two years ago – Atleti were leading 1-0 until Sergio Ramos’ equaliser in the final minute of injury time, only to lose 4-1 after half an hour of extra time – Simeone and his players will be desperate to go one better at San Siro on Saturday.
Despite being La Liga champions in 2014, Atletico seem to be more widely fancied this time around, partly because of their exploits in the tournament already this year and partly because of their excellent head-to-head record against their city rivals. In the last five meetings, Real Madrid have only won one match against their neighbours. Atleti conceded just 18 goals in 38 La Liga matches in 2015/16, with their solidity and resolve at the back likely to be key again at the weekend.
Real Madrid’s route to the final was rather simpler than Atletico’s, with Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City their opponents in the knockout stage. Their 1-0 aggregate defeat of City in the last four was more comfortable and straightforward than the scoreline would suggest, with Madrid superior in virtually all departments against Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit.
Zinedine Zidane’s charges have got better as the season has gone on, with Barcelona only winning the Spanish title by a single point despite holding a 12-point advantage over Los Blancos in March. Madrid ended the domestic campaign with 12 straight wins – by a cumulative score of 39-9 – while they have only suffered a single defeat in all competitions since a 1-0 loss to Atletico in February. Cristiano Ronaldo has recaptured his best form in the last few months and, with Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric all also fit and firing, the 10-time European kings look in good shape as they seek to add another trophy to their cabinet.
Simeone has no selection concerns ahead of the final, with Atleti possessing a fully-fit squad. The Argentine will be hoping his side do not suffer any injuries mid-game on Saturday, with Diego Costa withdrawn after just nine minutes in Lisbon after suffering a reoccurrence of a long-running hamstring problem.
Madrid, meanwhile, will be without Raphael Varane, who will also miss the European Championship with a thigh problem, but Ronaldo is expected to be fit despite limping out of a training session this week. Casemiro will anchor the midfield alongside Modric and Toni Kroos, while Dani Carvajal is expected to be given the nod ahead of Danilo at right-back.
Our Preview’s Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Betting Tips Conclusion
This Madrid derby should be a tight and hard-fought encounter, with goals likely to be at a premium. On balance, though, it is probably worth backing Atletico to come out on top. Simeone’s side are an extremely difficult opponent to face in one-off knockout games such as this, and their defensive strength means they will be patient and relaxed about not having too much of the ball. In terms of potential goalscorers, Fernando Torres to find the back of the net first looks like a decent option.
- Betting Tip: Atletico Madrid to beat Real Madrid by the correct score margin of 1-0 @ best betting odds of 8/1 with Paddy Power.
- Betting Tip: Fernando Torres to be first goalscorer @ best odds of 15/2 with Bet365.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.