2016/17 Champions League

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LIVE — Real, Juventus meet in Cardiff for UCL finale

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There’s a lot on the line Saturday in Cardiff as Real Madrid and Juventus face off for the UEFA Champions League title, and no matter which side comes out on top we’re in store for something special.

The Millennium Stadium is the setting as Zinedine Zidane and Real are on the verge of capturing their third UCL crown in the past four seasons, a feat that has never been accomplished in the Champions League Era.

Meanwhile, Juventus seeks its first UCL title since the mid-1990s and looks to get the job done after falling short against Barcelona two seasons ago.

Cristiano Ronaldo has had another historic season for Los Blancos, totaling 10 goals in this year’s UCL competition, while Argentine duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paolo Dybala attempt to close the deal for Juventus with their combined 52 goals across all competitions.

Here are the squads ahead of Saturday’s final:

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo.

Juventus: Buffon; Sandro, Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli; Pjanic, Khedira; Mandzukic, Dybala, Alves; Higuain.

Scenes from Cardiff ahead of UCL final

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The Millennium Stadium will be the setting for the UEFA Champions League final but the entire city of Cardiff is buzzing as Real Madrid and Juventus prepare to do battle.

Although the Premier League season is past us for the time being, Saturday’s contest in Wales will surely provide a memorable

Check out some of the sights from Cardiff with just a few hours remaining before kick off.

 

UCL at half: Isco’s away goal cancels solid Atletico effort

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Don’t count out Diego Simeone’s men just yet after Atletico put on a strong showing during the opening 45 minutes at the Vicente Calderon, but Real Madrid may have still found their way through to the final.

Isco’s rebound finish just prior to halftime gave Real a 4-2 lead on aggregate after Karim Benzema did brilliantly to keep the ball inbounds on the left end line.

Saul gave the hosts the lead on the day (3-1 on aggregate) after just 12 minutes when he nodded home Koke’s corner kick, before Antoine Griezmann made it 2-0 (3-2 on agg.) four minutes later.

Fernando Torres was dragged down inside the penalty area by Danilo in the 15th minute, giving Atleti another lifeline.

The French striker converted from the penalty spot despite appearing to slip a bit on the attempt and Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas getting a hand to it.

Meanwhile, an abundance of yellow cards will have both sides wary of their physicality during the second stanza. The two clubs have a combined five yellows thus far, three to Atletico and two to Real.

UCL Wednesday preview: Real Madrid with heavy lead on Atletico

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One team is confirmed as a Champions League finalist, so now it’s time to find out who will join Juventus in Cardiff.

Real Madrid seems to be the easy choice as they hold a 3-0 lead heading across town to the Vicente Calderon at 2:45 p.m. ET. It is the final time the stadium will host the Madrid derby before Atletico moves to Estadio La Peineta in the summer.

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That three-goal lead for Madrid is monstrous, given both Madrid’s world-beating attacking threat and Atletico’s struggles to score this season, especially in European competition. The club has scored more than two goals in a Champions League match only once this campaign, a wild 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen away from home.

The real difficulty for Atletico will be looking to attack for three goals while not giving up any at the other end. After being shut out on the road, just one away goal for Real would mean the hosts would then need five goals to advance. A clean sheet is a must.

“If they score the tie is even more difficult,” said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez, “but a goal in the first half would give us a lot of strength and could make them nervous.”

History, though, has not been kind to Atletico. Real Madrid has eliminated them from the Champions League in the last three seasons. Two were in the final, but the one that featured a game at the Vicente Calderon saw a 0-0 first-leg draw. Juventus is looking for an opponent, and while history is likely to repeat itself, a comeback for the ages would be quite the way to send out the old, storied stadium.

Juventus 2-1 Monaco: Italians reach Champions League final

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Dani Alves and Mario Mandzukic sent Juventus into the Champions League final as the Italian giants eased by Monaco in a 90 minutes that seemed all too comfortable.

The Brazilian full-back was the real star, with a stunning volley and an assist as well.

Monaco was dangerous through the opening 20 minutes, and forced the Juventus defenders to make a few last-ditch clearances and tackles. Georgio Chiellini in particular was needed as he cleared it off the line after a shot got past Gianluigi Buffon.

Juventus would eventually gain control of the match past the 20-minute mark. Gonzalo Higuain had a big chance one-on-one with Danijel Subasic, but while his chip got past the Monaco goalkeeper, Kamil Glick was there to clear it off the line. Subasic then made a spectacular save on Mandzukic who got through.

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Mandzukic would make amends just past the half-hour mark to put the two-legged tie away. The ball switched flanks from left to right, and eventually fell to Dani Alves. The Brazilian, who had both assists in the first leg, delivered yet another glittering cross to Mandzukic making a far-post run, and while the striker’s header was saved by Subasic, he roofed the rebound from point-blank range for the opening goal.

Moments later, Alves nearly had yet another assist, but his beautiful through ball to spring Higuain saw the referee’s flag correctly raised for offside.

Monaco, however, didn’t give in. Minutes before the halftime break, a superb cross from Benjamin Mendy nearly met the outstretched leg of Falcao, but Chiellini made a stunning tackle to turn the cross behind for a corner on a slide that would see most defenders end up with the ball in their own net.

The missed chance would loom large as Juventus end up down the other end with a second goal to well and truly put the match away. Paulo Dybala had a one-on-one chance saved well by Subasic, but on the ensuing corner, the goalkeeper’s punch fell to Alves who delivered a cracking one-time volley before the ball fell to ground that rippled the back of the net.

After the break, Monaco would eventually pull one back with 20 minutes to go as Kylian Mbappe’s close-range poke was the first goal conceded by Juventus in 689 Champions League minutes.

Things got physical as Glick stamped on an infuriated Higuain, while Mandzukic was the recipient of an elbow from substitute Fabinho.

Monaco had little else to offer as Juventus time-wasted expertly and the French club couldn’t stop fouling. The win for Juventus moves them into their ninth European final and their second in the last three seasons. Meanwhile, Monaco’s fabulous run comes to an end, stunted by the incredible Juventus defense and let down by their own porous back line.