Real Madrid aims for its third UEFA Champions League crown in four seasons on Saturday when it takes the pitch at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for a showdown with Juventus.
Real is the winningest team in UCL Final history, going 11-3 in the marquee match of the club football season.
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2015 is the only final Real hasn’t qualified for, and that’s when Juventus fell to Barcelona. In fact, Juve has lost more UCL finals than any club (2-6). Juve is also one of only eight teams to contest six or more UCL finals.
So what will tip the scales between the two titans which have split 18 matches to the tune of 8-2-8? In our opinion, these three battles:
1) Juve: Simply stop Ronaldo and win?
Follow me here, because this isn’t simply us regurgitating the easiest answer on Earth.
Real and Juve have matched up four times since the start of the the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, and Real has only won one of those matches. That affair saw Juve sink to 10 men in a group stage loss.
Juve has not kept a clean sheet in any of those matches, allowing six goals. One came from Gareth Bale and the other five came from Cristiano Ronaldo. Two were penalty kicks, but there’s little denying that Juve’s stingy defense has been able to deal with much of what Real has to offer.
CR7 is a different animal altogether.
2) Dani Alves’ crosses versus Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.
Alves plays further up the flank than you remember from his time at Barcelona, and Juve has used Mario Mandzukic on the left wing to give a pair of big targets.
Ramos will likely see himself drawn into several tricky situations when Alves either works past left back Marcelo or takes advantage of the marauder. Varane won’t often match up directly with Alves, but both he and Ramos will likely have to deal with the Brazilian’s pinpoint crosses and creative passes.
3) Will Real’s overlooked weapon dominate Dybala?
Casemiro is about as important a piece to Real’s mix as anyone not named Ronaldo, though he rarely gets deserved credit for his work in the center of the park.
He’s the reason Ramos and Varane don’t have to deal with as much as most center backs, and has the potential to neutralize any attacker.
Dybala, the slippery 23-year-old Argentine, has 19 goals and nine assists in all competitions this season and a solid connection with center forward Gonzalo Higuain (not to mention Alves).