Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Final Tips – Atletico Madrid v Real MadridStats
Real v Atletico
Spanish sides have claimed nine of the past 15 Champions and Europa League titles and La Liga’s elite will make that 10 from 16 on Saturday night when, for the second time in three years, Madrid meets Madrid.
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid, Saturday 28th May 2016, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
In 2014 Real ran out winners in a superbly-entertaining encounter in extra-time. Now Atletico are looking for revenge as the pair face-off again, this time within the four walls of Milan’s iconic San Siro.
Zinedine Zidane’s Real are once again favourites to lift the trophy but Los Blancos have been dominated in this fixture since that Lisbon final two years ago. In 10 contests since 2014/15, Atleti have W6-D3-L1 with that sole reverse coming from a Javier Hernandez goal in the 88th minute against 10 Atletico men at the Bernabeu in April 2015.
Go back as far as February 2014 and the 1-0 triumph is Real’s only taste of 90-minute success against Los Colchoneros in 12 as they’ve scored just eight goals. However, in spite of that rotten return, Real have held the upper hand in European action over the past two campaigns.
In fact, on Diego Simeone’s watch, Real Madrid are the only team to knock Atletico out of Champions League action.
Los Colchoneros have seen off Barcelona twice, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and PSV Eindhoven under the outstanding Argentine in knockout football since 2013/14.
Simeone’s overseen a thrilling reinvention at the Vicente Calderon. A first Madrid derby triumph in 14 years, Copa del Rey final glory against Los Blancos in 2013, a La Liga title and it’s worth reminding ourselves, Atletico did lead for 54 minutes in that final two years ago, and only denied by a Sergio Ramos leveller in the third minute of injury time.
Los Colchoneros continue to defy the odds – ousting tournament favourites Barcelona and Bayern Munich en-route to Milan and Simeone’s side look well equipped to run their more illustrious city rivals to the wire this weekend. Having failed at the final hurdle of the Europe’s most prestigious club competition twice, Atletico are determined to get this one right.
Real were presented with a far more straightforward path to the final and still made more of a mess of it than their supposed poor relations. Roma could and should have sealed their fate in the Last-16 whilst the Whites scraped through against Wolfsburg and Manchester City, failing to really convince.
The Madrid media are making a song and dance about Zidane – had La Liga started when the French legend was given the job at the turn of the year, Real would have taken the title – and a W15-D1-L1 return from their last 17 demands major respect. As does a squad filled with superstar names.
Cristiano Ronaldo limped out of training on Tuesday but should be fine to start and Los Blancos will need their all-time top scorer in tow seeing as they’re coming up against the most tactically disciplined unit on the continent.
Atletico have shipped just six goals in 10 Champions League knockout matches since the start of last season, conceded fewer than 0.50 goals-per-game during their domestic campaign and have their first-choice back five available with Augusto Fernandez and Gabi ready to sit in deep and compact positions to protect the defence. Getting through Los Colchoneros won’t be easy.
The majority of Simeone’s squad that featured in the Lisbon final have moved on but in Antoine Griezmann – scorer of nine Champions League goals this season – the underdogs possess a player of pace and precision, capable of hurting a Madrid defence that doesn’t always stand firm.
With Fernando Torres and Griezmann pressing high, Atleti will look to pressurise Los Blancos up the field, as they did against Barca and Bayern. It worked a treat against the two possession-obsessive machines and so there’s no reason why it won’t again here and so at 9/4, Atletico Madrid are underrated.
Going back to that head-to-head record – since 2013/14 Los Colchoneros have W6-D6-L3 against their neighbours – and considering six of the past 15 Champions League finals have required extra-time and/or penalties, another close encounter is forecast.
There’s value in backing Atletico in the Draw No Bet market at 23/20, which we’ll do, but a wiser option could be to back either side to win on penalties – both sides can be backed at 9/1 to triumph on spot-kicks.
Eight of the last 12 meetings have featured fewer than three goals and low-scoring encounters tend to produce more draws. And it’s worth noting, Real’s extra-time success a couple of years ago included the first extra-time goals in a Champions League final for more than two decades.
Prior to the 2014 match, 10 of the previous 11 Champions League finals that weren’t decided in 90 minutes all went to penalties. So as well as keeping the draw and Atletico onside at attractive odds, punters should be prepared for the potential of a long and low-scoring night in Milan on Saturday.
Atletico Madrid Draw No Bet (23/20)
Atletico Madrid To Win On Penalties (9/1)
*Prices correct at time of publication