We seem to have come a long way in such a short space of time during this UEFA Champions League campaign.
After another competition of high drama, controversy and spades of quality, the finalists for this year’s competition are set. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are the two teams that will battle it out at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on Saturday, May 24th for the right to be called European Champions.
Madrid will be chasing their tenth European crown—La Decima—after their demolition of Bayern Munich in the semi-final. A brace each from Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo saw Los Blancos cruise into the last two by an aggregate score of 5-0, as Carlo Ancelotti’s team exploited Bayern’s obvious deficiencies defending set-pieces and counter-attacks.
In the other semi-final, Atletico produced a superb performance to overcome Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. An early goal from Fernando Torres put the home side in front, but Diego Simeone’s side responded superbly. A stike from Adrian Lopez just before half-time was followed after the break by a Diego Costa penalty and a tidy finish from Arda Turan.
This year’s final is a enticing proposition, and here’s a few things we’ve gathered about both of the finalists and the two sides vanquished at the semi-final stage this week.
Ancelotti Influence Remains Key To Madrid
Real Madrid reached the semi-finals three times in a row under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho, but despite the Portuguese’s obvious European pedigree, he was never able to take the nine-time winners to a Champions League final; never quite capable of channelling Madrid’s embarrassment of attacking riches when it really mattered.
Ancelotti, by contrast, has not only facilitated a system in which Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale can all flourish, but the Italian has also been able to conjure a cohesive defensive shape and unyielding midfield tenacity. The latter two of those aforemention attributes being qualities you wouldn’t typically associate with Real Madrid.
Before a baying Allianz Arena, Madrid produced a clinic in effective, direct football against the holders. They exposed Bayern from set-pieces with excellent deliveries and dynamic movement in the box, whilst on the break they were absolutely scintillating. Ancelotti set his side up in an orthodox 4-4-2 system, and when Madrid sprung from deep, they’d often find Ronaldo and Benzema two-on-two with the Bayern central defenders.
Under Ancelotti, this team have shown a will to be versatile and the ability to adapt to the opposition, something that is vital in the latter stages of this competition. You suspect it will be crucial once again in the final if they are to emerge victorious.