Tonight brings the culmination of the European club season as Juventus and Real Madrid go head to head for the biggest jewel the crown, that of course being the Champions League with Cardiff being the venue for what is set to be an epic clash between arguably the two best clubs in Europe right now.
Juventus will be looking to go one better than their 2015 final disappointment at the hands of Barcelona while Real Madrid will be aiming to be the first team to defend the trophy under its current guise and also the first team to win back to back trophies since A.C. Milan in 1989 and 1990.
Massimilliano Allegri’s all conquering Juventus side are looking to complete a historic treble as they have already picked up success in Serie A and the Coppa Italia this season, their domestic dominance shows no signs of letting up as they secured a 6th successive league title last month.
They may have only won the league by a margin of 4 points from nearest rivals AS Roma but in fairness they have taken their foot off the gas in the final handful of matches so as to be fully prepared for this evenings clash with holders Real Madrid.
The appointment of Massimiliano Allegri was widely criticised by Juventus fans when he came on board. After three consecutive league and cup doubles, and a runners up defeat in the Champions League to Barcelona in 2015, he’s looking to go down as one of the greatest managers in the club’s history.
Likewise, Zinedine Zidane has also been criticised for his managerial ability. His tactical nouse is often questioned. However, his ability to motivate the Real Madrid players is unquestionable. He has only been in management for a season and a half and in that time has already won a gluttony of major trophies.
Real come into tie having domestic superiority of their own, they picked up a first league title for the first time since 2012 thanks to a final day win away at Malaga. That victory meant that Barcelona would be denied a third successive La Liga crown and the title would finally return to the Santiago Bernabeu after a five year hiatus.
It is fair to say that sometimes the final of this competition does not pit the two best sides across the continent together but this year we should be treated to something as special as both Juventus and Real Madrid have been a class above both at home and abroad.
Juventus route to the final has included knockout stage wins against FC Porto, Barcelona and Monaco while holders Real have had to get the better of Napoli, Bayern Munich and cross town rivals Atletico in order to get to South Wales this evening.
For Real it will be a homecoming of sorts for Gareth Bale but there is still a question mark as to whether or not he will be fit enough to start from the off. Manager Zinedine Zidane has got the selection headache of gambling with Bale or rewarding Isco for his impressive late season form.
As for Cristiano Ronaldo there is not only the demand to win the Champions League title for a second successive season but to also finish the competition as top scorer, he currently has 10 goals to his name but will need to score twice to knock Lionel Messi off the top as the Argentine has scored 11 times in this season’s edition.
Juventus’ main man in attack is undoubtedly Gonzalo Higuain, purchased last summer from Napoli in a bid to not only weaken their nearest rivals but also to further strengthen their own star studded squad the Uruguayan has gone a long way to paying off the £70m+ that was paid to acquire his services.
The 29 year old scored 24 times this season for the Turin side and those goals undoubtedly paid a large part in winning another Serie A title. His return in this competition has not been too shabby either with 5 goals to his name from 11 appearances.
He will paired with Pablo Dybala who himself has scored on 4 occasions in the Champions League this season, none more important than the brace he scored in the Quarter Final 1st Leg win over Barcelona, a result which exacted revenge for Juve’s 2015 final defeat.
On the other side there is potential for a Juventus old boy Alvaro Morata to get one over his former employers. Morata who is in his second stint as a Real Madrid player had two successful for the Italian giants before Los Blancos exercised their buyout clause last summer.
Whether Morata starts though is a different matter as he will likely be a back up to Karim Benzema once again, if that is to be the case then any minutes that are afforded to the Spanish international may well be his last with reports that he could be set to leave the Bernabeu again in this upcoming transfer window.
It is without question the immovable object meeting an unstoppable force as the swashbuckling attack line of the Galacticos goes up against Juventus’ rigid defensive unit otherwise known as The BBC – that band of evergreen did what many teams have failed to do over the years and that was keep a clean sheet at the Nou Camp.
Protecting their 3-0 advantage from the first leg they showed Paris Saint-Germain and Unai Emery how it should be done by completing a perfect shutout of the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez et al. For many that was the performance which showed they could go all the way this time around.
Juventus though should not be labelled as a solely defensive side as the talents mentioned above will attest to but their game plan will likely be to frustrate Real Madrid and hit them on the counter attack, we could be set for one of the all time classic displays of attack versus defence this evening.
So ultimately the question has to be asked as to who wins? Well it will probably boil down to who comes out on top? Buffon or Ronaldo, Higuain or Navas. The steel of Juventus versus the flamboyance of Real, that remains to be seen but one thing is for sure we are going to be in for a treat this evening.