June 3rd will see Real Madrid take on Juventus in the final of the UEFA Champions League at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, as the footballing world will wait to see which team will be crowned champions of Europe this season.
The final is a repeat of the 1998 Champions League final, which saw Real Madrid win the tournament after 32 years thanks to a goal by Predrag Mijatovic. Real kept a clean sheet that day against a Juventus attack that boasted the liked of Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Del Piero, Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids. However, 19 years later, Real are the ones possessing the attacking riches, while Juventus’ journey to the final has been principled on a strong defensive philosophy.
A figure central to this final will be Zinedine Zidane, who played for both clubs in his career. He has left no doubts about which side he has a stronger allegiance to, though, calling Real Madrid the ‘club of my life.’ Zidane will be hoping to help Real achieve what no team in history has ever done before – successfully defend the Champions League title. AC Milan, Ajax, Juventus, and Manchester United are the four defending champions to have reached the final before Real Madrid this year. Can the galacticos make history?
Led by the inspirational Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus will not make it easy for Real. Playing with Dani Alves and Alex Sandro as full-backs, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci as centre-backs, and Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain as forwards, The Old Lady has one of the most balanced teams in Europe at the moment. Before conceding against Monaco in the second leg of their semi-final, Juventus had defeated Porto and Barcelona without conceding a single goal over four legs, while Dybala and Higuain wreaked havoc up front.
Most neutrals would argue that if any player in the world deserves to win the Champions League, it is Gianluigi Buffon. At 39, this might be his last chance to hold the trophy he so craves, having missed out in two finals before. However, the same narrative was pelted out when Juventus reached the final two seasons back, although eventually losing to Barcelona. Even the message from Buffon is clear – write me off at your own risk.
“Two years ago everyone thought it was my last final – but you have to believe in your dreams,” Buffon said. “We’ve got to Cardiff – I won’t say it was our aim because getting to the final means nothing. I’m really happy because I’m in good shape. I can’t deny the fact that if we didn’t have a great team, getting there wouldn’t be possible.”
Real Madrid’s forward line of Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco stand in Buffon’s way of winning his first ever Champions League title. On June 3rd, it could either by a tryst with destiny for the Italian legend, or end in heartbreak for the third time in his career. Whatever be the outcome, we are assured of a Champions League final which will showcase some of the best attacking and defensive talents in world football.