The city of Milan will literary be shutdown as two bitter rivals; Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid will battle in Saturday’s all Spanish final of the UEFA Champions League at the San Siro Stadium in Italy.
The upcoming final will be the 61st in the history of the competition, and the 24th since the re-branding of the league from the European Cup to the Champions League.
Real Madrid is the rich and powerful club filled with some of the world’s biggest stars. Atlético is the humble, down-to-earth team that thrives on the hard work of mostly unknown players. The clubs play opposing styles, carry contrasting fan bases, and have different backgrounds.
Saturday’s showdown is a repeat of the 2014 final when Atlético were just moments from being crowned champions of Europe before a late Sergio Ramos equalizer forced extra-time and Real went on to win 4-1.
It would be assumed that revenge would be on the minds of the Rojiblancos players, however, the Los Blancos are also aware of the challenge at hand, knowing that a victory for them would make it the 11th time that they have won the competition.
Statistically, Real Madrid have won 214, lost 108 and drawn 102 matches in all competitions against Atlético Madrid since their first meeting in the 1927/28 season.
Records may be thrown into the trash bin, due to the fact that it is the team that takes advantage of their chances in front of the goal that may smile as they beset their eyes on the trophy.
Road to the Final
Both Real Madrid and Atlético made it to the final by finishing first in their groups. Atlético survived a penalty shootout to eliminate PSV Eindhoven in the round of 16, then got past defending champion Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate and five-time champion Bayern Munich on away goals. Real Madrid eliminated AS Roma 4-0 on aggregate, then reversed a 2-0 first-leg loss to Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals and defeated Manchester City 1-0 on aggregate in the semifinals.
Raphaël Varane has been ruled out of the UEFA Champions League finale, but Cristiano Ronaldo has declared himself fit despite falling injured on Tuesday. Diego Simeone has a completely healthy squad to choose from.
Real Madrid’s possible starting lineup: Keylor Navas, Daniel Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Atlético Madrid’s possible starting lineup: Jan Oblak, Juanfran, Gimenez, Diego Godin, Felipe Luis, Saul Niguez, Augusto Fernandez, Gabi, Koke, Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres.
Zinedine Zidane, the elegant midfielder who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2002, is in his first head-coaching job and was able to salvage a Madrid season that was headed for disaster under predecessor Rafa Benítez. Diego Simeone, a fierce defensive midfielder for Argentina in his playing days, took over Atlético in 2012 and was responsible for turning the team into a force with hard-working players who passionately abide to his team-first attitude.
“It’s been an up-and-down season but we can take a lot of positives from it…the most important thing is the team gets the victory and we lift the Champions League trophy,” said Real Madrid midfielder Gareth Bale.
He continued, “it’s great to be in another final. Everyone’s worked very hard to get there and we’re excited to have the opportunity to have the chance to lift the trophy again. Hopefully we can take the opportunity and win the game.”
“This final is the most important game of my life. An opportunity to write a page that isn’t written in the 13-year history of Atlético . I have the chance to fulfill a childhood dream, which was to win with this club. The past can only help you be better. We’re only thinking about Milan, which is the present,” Atlético Madrid striker, Fernando Torres.
No one from Costa Rica (Keylor Navas) or Colombia (James Rodríguez) has previously played in a UCL final.
DID YOU KNOW?
Players from 57 countries have appeared in a European Cup final and Spain could supplant Italy for most overall appearances in Milan. Top 7: Italy (241), Spain (237), Germany (187), Netherlands (111), England (108), France (106), Portugal (105).
FACTS ABOUT SAN SIRO STADIUM
Stadio San Siro officially opened on the 19th of September 1926 with a friendly between Milan and Inter (3-6). The stadium initially consisted of four separate stands and could hold 35,000 spectators.
It has an all-seater capacity of 80,018, making it one of the largest stadiums in Europe, and the largest in Italy.
San Siro was first owned by AC Milan, but was sold to the city of Milan in 1935, who were soon forced too enlarge the stadium due to the club’s increasing popularity.
The San Siro is a UEFA category four stadium. It hosted six games at the 1990 FIFA World Cup and three European Cup finals, in 1965, 1970 and 2001, and will host the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final.
The stadium is also used for concerts and other sporting events.
Die hard fans from Nigeria, Africa, and across the world will be cheering their respective teams on in this potentially nail biting match.