Saturday June 3rd Real Madrid faces Juventus at the 74,500 capacity Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Ripe with story lines and packed with pundit opinions, my view from the grandstands tells me the crowd is rooting for Los Blancos (+160) with the option of Real Madrid to lift the Trophy (-115) viewed as the “safe” bet. I don’t think it will be that simple.
La Liga wasn’t that good this year. Sure it theoretically went down to the wire but Real had a match in hand but this year futbol in Spain seemed more about who’s going to lose the league, not win it. Barcelona, with Enrique’s last year as Manager, appeared to be in more of a cool down phase than formable title contenders. PSG might feel differently but for the most part Barcelona spent this year in cruise control, making plans for the future. Real Madrid had some dismal affairs this year, many of which are buried as draws and made to look like wins, just ask Las Palmas.
Ronaldo has had a sensational 12 months. First, Cristiano won the 2016 Champions League beating Atletico Madrid 5-3 on Penalties (1-1)*. He then went on to captain Portugal to the 2016 Euro Title, beating France 1-0 After Extra Time. If that wasn’t enough, Ronaldo capped off the year with the Ballion D’Or Trophy, which is given to the best Footballer on the planet. Winning the Champions League involves having more than one special player, it takes having a special team. Real Madrid is not that this year.
The absence of Bale not in Wales is certainly a headline that’s gotten play leading up to this heavyweight match up. But the keys to why Real Madrid won’t repeat as Champions League Title holders lies between the pipes and upfront with Karim Benzema. Goalkeeping stud Keylor Navas only kept 5 clean sheets in La Liga this year. Benzema has lacked presence upfront and frankly I think Ronaldo is tired from playing almost 11 months of continuous futbol. After a year and half Zidane is finally getting credit after his initial success was dubbed Rafa Benitez’ team. Real Madrid without a doubt deserves to be in this final. Beating Bayern Munich and Napoli on German and Italian soil is no small feat. Regardless of Real Madrid needing Extra Time to send off Bayern at the Bernabeu, there’s always fight in Madrid, and Los Blancos appear to be extra scrappy this year. But make no mistake about it, this is an ultra-dangerous Juventus team. The Gladiator has returned Caesar.
If I had a choice between laying my money on the best striker in the world who has just come off quite arguably his most accomplished season ever, or Gigi Buffon, I’m putting my money on Gigi. While Ronaldo has been feasting on his soccer spoils, the face of the Old Lady gazes hungry. Having not won a Champions League crown since 1996, Juventus arrives in Wales with something to prove. Juve has come up short in their quest to recapture glory four times since 1996. Failures in 1997, 1998, 2003, & 2015 has left The Girlfriend of Italy wringing its hands and Buffon wondering if this is his last shot at adding some new silverware alongside that World Cup Trophy of his. Gigi halfway to 40, has certainly been playing like he has something left to prove. A clean sheet against Real would not surprise me. Vegas has Juventus (+220) to keep a clean sheet, Real is (+180).
For a team to sell a player as the most expensive ever, like what Juventus did with Paul Pogba, and still go on to capture the Serie A and Coppa Italia titles tells me the side from Turin knows exactly what they’re doing. I always joke be wary of what the Italians are selling when it comes to the Transfer Market, especially Juventus. Who needs Pogba when you have Dybala, Higuain, Dani Alves, and Mandzukic. Not to mention the signature Italian style defense backing up Buffon.
This year, I’m taking Buffon, Dybala the Gladiator and, Alves over Ronaldo, Navas, and Isco. Talent is dripping from this game and the difference maker could literally come from anywhere or anyone. This match reads to me as a stalemate. The skill on each side is deadlocked, with the Italians winning out on the defensive front. A couple of interesting odds that jumped out at me is ‘Both Teams to Score’. Quite a few books have both teams listed around -110, while the clean sheet odds are +180/+220. The Win to Nil odds for both teams are +300 for Real & +350 for Juventus. The Draw No Bet options are pretty even money with Real Madrid -125 & Juve + 105. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly then it leads me to believe a scoreless affair from either side is a possibility but both teams finding the back of the net is the expected result. So thinking Juve or even Real winning in regular time means 3 or more goals. The O/U is around 2,2 ½ OV +101 & 2,2 ½ UN -115. Buffon has been lights out in Champions League competition, 5 clean sheets in 6 matches. So thinking goals will come easy might be a stretch. One prop I do fancy a flutter on is Will there be a Penalty in the Match, Yes + 300, No -400. The rough style defensive playing styles makes me want to vote Yes at +300. Besides the cute stuff, I like Juventus to win the 2017 Champions League After Extra Time. Draw (+220) & Juventus Wins After Extra Time (+1200).
Article by Christian Cianci