The 2016 Champions League Final in the San Siro on Saturday will have a local flavor to it as city rivals Real and Atletico Madrid will meet in the final for the second time in three years.
In 2014 Real won 4-1 in the final in Lisbon, but the three goals in extra time ladled a bucket-load of gloss on the victory that completed ‘La Décima’ – Real Madrid’s tenth European Cup – but it would have been Atlético’s trophy had Sergio Ramos not cancelled out Diego Godín’s strike in the 93rd minute.
The two sides also met in the Champions League quarter-finals last year where Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid finally picked the lock late after 178 goalless minutes between the sides, Javier Hernández scoring following Cristiano Ronaldo’s burst into the box, with Simeone’s Atlético a man down following the dismissal of Arda Turan.
The sides have now met 200 times in league and Copa del Rey games, and while Real have the better record (W102 D48 L50), they have not beaten Atlético in six La Liga meetings, since the 2014 UEFA Champions League final (D2 L4).
It should be a great night at one of football’s cathedrals, Milan’s Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, 0therwise known as San Siro. This will be the fourth time the European Cup has been decided at the stadium after 1965, 1970 and 2001.
Zinedine Zidane would have been a worried man when he saw his star attacker Cristiano Ronaldo limp out of Real’s training session earlier this week.
Fans of Los Blancos went into meltdown but the Portuguese star soon reassured supporters he’ll be fine for the game in Milan and should start.
‘I am fine. I had a little problem in training, a dead leg, but I will be fine,’ Ronaldo said. ‘It was a minor scare, a knock.’
One man who will definitely miss the game is French defender Raphael Varane. He is out of Euro 2016 after suffering a grade two hamstring injury in training.
Probable team: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Casemiro; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.
Atletico boss Diego Simeone has cut a relaxed figure this week, a contrast to his usual spiky demeanour.
Two years ago in Lisbon there were question marks hanging over Diego Costa, who lasted just nine minutes before succumbing to a pre-existing hamstring problem. Arda Turn was ruled out.
This time around there are no-such problems and even former Chelsea midfielder Tiago has returned after six months out injured.
Probable team: Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godin, Filipe Luis; Niguez, Gabi, Fernandez, Koke; Torres, Griezmann.
What are the managers saying?
‘There’s pressure but I like that. I will approach this with patience, tranquillity and determination. We’re going to play a final: everyone who likes football wants to have the feeling of living a final with their team.’
‘There is no such thing as revenge in football, or in life for that matter, just new opportunities. “Revenge” is a negative word, because it harks back to a defeat; on the other hand, “opportunity” is about optimism, confidence and what’s to come, and that’s what we want to show in the Champions League.’