Tale of the Tape: Real Madrid vs. Juventus in the Champions League final
- Spanish giant Real Madrid aims for history, while Juventus is out to make some of its own in a Champions League final full of enticing storylines.
Real Madrid and Juventus have booked their tickets for a June 3 date in Cardiff, where they'll duel for the 2016-17 Champions League title.
Real Madrid survived a spirited comeback attempt by Atletico Madrid to return to the final stage, while Juventus coasted by Monaco to secure its place, and the two powers will square off in Wales, where there is an abundance of storylines in play.
Here's a closer look at a star-studded final matchup, one that should provide plenty of entertainment to cap the European season:
PARTY LIKE IT'S 1998
The two sides met in the 1998 final, where Real Madrid prevailed thanks to Predrag Mijatovic's 66th-minute strike in Amsterdam.
That marked the end of a three-year run in which Juventus had reached the final, and the club has only appeared on the grand stage twice since, losing both times.
For Real Madrid that title was its seventh, and it's gone on to win four more since without losing in the final once. Oddly, it's only beaten one non-Spanish team for the last four titles, that being Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.
REAL MADRID SEEKS HISTORY
No team has repeated as European champion since AC Milan, which accomplished the feat in 1989 and 1990. After capturing its record 11th title last season, Real Madrid is in position to set the new standard in the competition and do what no team in the last 27 years has been able to accomplish, despite some legendary title-winning squads trying their best.
BBC vs. BBC
The final could come down to which BBC line is more impactful. The Real Madrid trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will match up against the stout Juventus defensive trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. Bale's calf health, of course, could throw the storyline out the window should he be unable to play (which would be a shame for him given the final is in his native land), but a strength vs. strength comparison could not be more stark, obvious–and made for headline writing.
BATTLE OF THE YOUNG MANAGERS
Both managers are younger than 50. Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane, at the ripe age of 44, is eyeing his second Champions League title as a manager after winning one as a player, while Juventus's Max Allegri, at 49, seeks his first piece of European silverware. For Zidane, winning again would come at the expense of one of his former clubs. He starred for Juventus from 1996-2001 before seeing out his playing days at Real Madrid.
BUFFON'S LAST FRONTIER
Gianluigi Buffon has won nearly everything as a player, capturing multiple Serie A titles and domestic cups and a UEFA Cup (and winning a World Cup with Italy). The Champions League is the last big item on his club bucket list, and after being denied in penalties vs. AC Milan in 2003 and again vs. Barcelona in 2015, he has another chance to lift the trophy that has eluded him for his legendary career. Expect the emotions to be flowing if Gigi gets his hands on that piece of silverware.
SELLERS CAN BE WINNERS
Two years ago, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal, Alvaro Morata, Patrice Evra and Andrea Pirlo were in Juventus's starting XI in Berlin, where the club fell short at the final Champions League hurdle and lost to Barcelona. After cashing in but losing all that talent (not to mention selling youngster Kingsley Coman to Bayern Munich, too), Juventus is arguably stronger, more balanced and better positioned to be the king of Europe. And it's made a pretty penny (er, euro) in the process.
Juventus can wrap up a sixth straight Serie A title this weekend, and it also has a place in the Coppa Italia final, meaning the club can complete the treble, should it win both finals. The only Italian team to pull off the treble so far has been Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in 2010, so there's plenty of history at stake. Only capturing the league title would make for a rather ordinary season, in the end.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, is locked in a battle with Barcelona for La Liga's crown, something the club hasn't won since 2012 while seeing Barça lift the trophy six times in the last eight years. Continental supremacy is nice, but taking care of business in the backyard is of utmost importance, too, and bringing that domestic title to the final stage would add an element of swagger for Los Blancos. Perspective can change in an instant, too: without a La Liga title and with a loss in the Champions League final, Real Madrid would end the season without any silverware (its Club World Cup title not withstanding).