Juventus face Real Madrid on June 3 in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in the 2017 Champions League final. For time the great Welsh ground was home from home for English football fans while Wembley was redeveloped, with many of the truly memorable FA Cup finals taken place there.
The 2017 final sees two heavyweights of the modern game clash in a truly mouth-watering tie, as the champions of Italy take on the champions of Spain, in a throwback to the old European Cup style.
Juventus wrapped up their domestic league title last week, their sixth in a row. Real Madrid meanwhile wrapped up theirs last weekend two, only their second since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Make no mistake though, this truly is a meeting of Europe’s best two sides of recent years.
Real Madrid are looking to win their third Champions League since 2014, and be the first side to win back-to-back Champions League trophies since the great AC Milan side, prior to the competition rebrand in 1992.
Juventus are chasing only their third Champions League however, having won the trophy in 1996 and 1985. They did reach the final in 2015 to take on Barcelona, wherein they were consummately outclassed by the Spanish side in a 3-1 defeat.
Juventus are marginal underdogs going into Saturday’s clash, but in terms of pure impressiveness this season, they have outshone their Spanish opponents. Much of the side who fell short to Barcelona in 2015 have left, making their continued success all the more impressive.
Gone are the likes of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez, and in are the marauding full-backs Dani Alves and Alex Sandro, who feed the dynamic duo of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala among others.
Real Madrid however remain largely the same team since their last time in the final, 12 months ago. The midfield has stayed largely the same, with Casemiero playing a more influential role, while the academy graduate Marco Asensio has become a somewhat regular squad player in the absence of Gareth Bale for large swathes of the campaign.
Ultimately not much has changed, and one year on from helping Portugal lift the European Championships, Cristiano Ronaldo remains a goal-scorer supreme, having netted 10 goals in the Champions League this season, as well as 25 in La Liga. Playing often as a centre-forward, Ronaldo has transitioned into the most ruthless penalty box striker in the world seamlessly.
However, Ronaldo will face arguably his toughest test of the season when he faces the Juventus defence this Saturday. The Juventus defence (three centre back and goalkeeper) have a combined age of 137, yet have performed at an astonishing level throughout the season, both in Serie A and the Champions League.
In fact, Juventus were the first time to not concede to Barcelona in a two-legged tie since La Blaugrana met Bayern Munich in the 2012/13 campaign. Furthermore, up until they conceded to Monaco in the second-leg of their semi-final tie, the Old Lady had only conceded two goals in the whole competition this season. In Serie A this season they only shipped in 27 goals in their 38 league fixtures.
Saturday is a meeting of two very strong teams and truly historic clubs looking to make their way into the history books once again. Throughout both sides are numerous players with their own history to write. While Real Madrid may be slight favourites it seems impossible to call a winner in what will be a truly intriguing Champions League final.