UCL Final preview: Real Madrid vs. Juventus

Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images

Two of the most decorated clubs in European history mix it up on Saturday in Wales, when Juventus and Real Madrid will play in their combined 24th UCL Final.

It’s a “rematch” of the 1998 final, though the clubs have tangled in two of the past four tournaments (each won one). The match winner of that 1-0 Real victory? Predrag Mijatović.

Juve has been to four UCL finals since taking down Ajax in 1996, and The Old Lady has lost every one. Real last lost a final in 1981 (Liverpool), and has gone in the opposite direction with six of its 11 titles coming in the last 36 years.

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Will it be seven of 12?

We broke down three key battles of the match on Thursday, so let’s focus on the possible status statements for each side.

— In an era with plenty of powerful sides with massive wallets, Real could assert itself as a bonafide dynasty. While the Spanish giants haven’t been La Liga champions each year — they did win this year’s crown — they could claim their third title in four years. It’s not unprecedented in recent years, as Barcelona, AC Milan, and a previous iteration of Real have achieved long runs of championship results. Yet it’s a major statement of big match fortitude.

— Juve has lost more UCL finals than anyone in history, and has a chance to make a statement for Serie A. The Italian top flight hasn’t seen a UCL winner since AC Milan in 2007, and would relish its dominant team asserting power over La Liga.

— There is also the personal legacy of Cristiano Ronaldo. Few are going to think his legendary status is tarnished by a loss in Cardiff, but this is a man who’s only UCL loss came in 2009 when he was 24. He hasn’t lost a final at Real, and at most clubs would silence any doubters with a win. Alas, those Real fans sure love to whistle.

Prediction: These sides haven’t had a zero on either side of the scoreboard over their last four meetings, and that won’t stop. We’re thinking this could be an instant classic, 3-2 in extra time. Who gets the winner? Would you believe longtime Real nemesis Dani Alves?