2017 Champions League Final Preview: The Classic Case of Offence vs. Defence

When Juventus and Real Madrid take to the pitch on June 3rd, it will pit two teams who are almost total contrasts against each other. Juventus have arguably the best defence in world football; they’ve conceded just 35 goals in 51 matches this season, and only 3 of those have come in the Champions League. In contrast, Real Madrid has scored 196 goals over the course of the season in all competitions.

In the team’s previous meeting, Juventus won 3-2 over two legs in the semi-finals of the 2015 Champions League. Ronaldo scored both goals for Madrid, while Alvaro Morata scored two as well, including the game winner.

Juve went on to lose that 2015 final to Barcelona, but a lot has changed for them since then. Of the starting 11 that game, six of them are no longer at the club — and of the five of those started, I would say that Leonardo Bonucci and of course Gianluigi Buffon are the two “locks” to start the final.

Possible Juventus lineup.jpg

This is Juve’s likely lineup to start the game. Considering they have one league game left on the 27th and it means absolutely nothing, I’m fairly certain everyone will be fully fit come June 3rd. After some early season lineup tinkering, manager Max Allegri has pretty much settled for this being his strongest eleven, especially in the Champions League where he has used some sort of variant of this formation in five of their six knockout games.

The biggest challenge for Juventus will be to try and stop Cristiano Ronaldo. You can easily make the case that he’s the most prolific goal scorer in Europe right now. In the semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo was used more as an out-and-out striker rather than as his traditional position on the wing. He’s incredibly lethal in front of goal — as evidenced by his hat-trick in the first leg — but may have his opportunities limited going up against the combination of Bonucci and Chiellini.

Possible Madrid lineup.jpg

The biggest question mark surrounding Real Madrid’s starting lineup is the health of Gareth Bale. The winger has been out since the El Clasico against Barcelona on April 23rd, and hasn’t featured since. If he does come back into the lineup, look for Madrid to switch to a 4-3-3 with Isco being taken out.

However, if I was Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, I would be very hesitant in doing that. Isco was arguably their best player in the second leg of the semi-final, scoring their only goal and setting up numerous other chances. To replace that with a rusty, perhaps not 100% fit Gareth Bale would be a mistake in my eyes.

In terms of the game, Juventus will have to be wary of the Real Madrid counter — they’re more lethal on the counter than when they’re trying to break down a defence. Unfortunately for Madrid, Juve is very comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure, as evidenced by their scoreless draw against Barcelona back in April. I think Madrid are good for one goal, but that’s about it. And if Juve score first, they may get none at all.

If I was a betting man (which I totally am) I would put my money on a 1-1 draw that goes to penalties, in which Juventus will prevail. It should be a great game.

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