Champions League Final Is Tough To Call

Football Preview: Champions League Final Is Tough To Call

2017-06-01
Betting preview of European football’s showpiece between Juventus and Real Madrid in Cardiff.

This year's Champions League final is one for the purists, with perennial European powerhouses Juventus and Real Madrid pitted together in a clash of styles in Cardiff.

The Italian giants will rely largely on a well-drilled and resilient defence in Wales, backed up by legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Their Spanish rivals, meanwhile, can call on the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo to spearhead an abundance of attacking flair.

Such different, yet equally impressive attributes make this a tough one to call, with Real only slight favourites at 17/20 to lift the trophy and Juve available at Evens.

Real are bidding to become the first club to claim back-to-back triumphs in Europe's elite club competition in the Champions League era.

The Whites have beaten neighbours Atletico in two of the last three finals, prevailing in extra time in Lisbon in 2014 and then on penalties in Milan 12 months ago.

Punters can get 31/20 they get the job done in normal time at the Principality and it is 43/20 we again get at least an additional 30 minutes of action following a draw.

Real again saw off Atletico in this season's semi-finals, with the damage done by a Ronaldo hat-trick in the first leg at the Bernabeu.

The Portugal superstar had previously sparkled in both encounters with Bayern Munich at the last-eight stage, netting five times in a 6-3 aggregate win that went all the way to extra time.

It has been another season of landmarks and milestones for Ronaldo, with the former Manchester United ace reaching a century of goals in this tournament and 400 for his current club in all competitions.

"He has something, he's different," commented Real boss Zinedine Zidane. "More than just the goals and what he's done up to now, he's always there in the decisive moments."

The admiration is mutual, with Ronaldo stating: "I really like Zidane - his personality, his way of coaching. As a player, I love it."

Interestingly, Ronaldo does also have a good head-to-head record against Buffon, scoring on all four occasions he has met him at club level.

The 32-year-old is 10/7 to hit the back of the net in normal time during this match, 18/5 to break the deadlock and the same price to score the last goal.

Ronaldo could even pip Lionel Messi to this season's Champions League Golden Boot if bagging a brace or better and 8/1 is available for that to happen.

However, Juventus have been able to rely on an incredibly mean defence up until this point, starting off with just two goals conceded during the group stage.

Buffon then helped the Old Lady keep five straight clean sheets in the knockout rounds, notably holding firm in both legs against Barcelona and when travelling to France to face a dashing young Monaco outfit.

Only a consolation strike in the second leg of that semi-final contest blotted their copybook and Juve are 43/20 not to concede against Real in normal time in Wales, plus 19/5 to win to nil.

Buffon is desperate to get his hands on the Champions League trophy for the first time at the age of 39, declaring: "We've got to Cardiff but I won't say it was our aim, because getting to the final means nothing."

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Juve's record in European Cup deciders is far from convincing, with a 3-1 loss to Barcelona in Berlin two years ago being the sixth time in eight previous finals they have come up just short.

On the plus side, they did manage to see off Real in the semis that season, winning 2-1 in Italy and then drawing 1-1 in Spain.

Massimiliano Allegri has continued the good work started by Antonio Conte at this grand old club and the current squad does have a bit more of an attacking threat.

Much of the money collected from the sale of Paul Pogba to Manchester United was reinvested in Gonzalo Higuain, who had previously established himself with Real and Napoli.

The 29-year-old Argentina hitman does polarise opinions, with many feeling he lacks the pace and movement to be a great striker in the modern game.

However, Higuain came good at the right time with a double strike in the away leg against Monaco and is 9/5 to net versus Real in normal time, 22/5 to bag the opener and the same price for the last goal.

"Higuain is a complete striker, surely among the best three nines in the world," insisted Juve's tough-as-teak defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Juventus have also benefitted from the progress made by Argentine playmaker Paulo Dybala, while acquiring the talents of Brazil wing-back Dani Alves from Barcelona was a masterstroke by Allegri.

"I'd say the greatest difference between this Juventus and the one you saw in the final two years ago is inner belief," added Chiellini.

"I don't think any of us really expected to go all the way to Berlin, but we grew into the competition as it went on. We then showed maybe a little too much respect to Barcelona in the final and that showed in our performance.

"This time around we know how to manage the key moments and we have the confidence to go toe to toe with Europe's best in the knowledge that we have what it takes to beat them."

The supporting cast for Real isn't too shabby either, though, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos pulling the strings in midfield and quoted at 8/1 and 7/2 respectively to be credited with an assist.

Karim Benzema is always capable of popping up with a goal and 6/1 for him to break the deadlock is sure to attract support.

Of course, this would also be the ideal opportunity for Gareth Bale to put his calf injury problems behind him when returning to his home city.

The Wales winger put Real ahead in extra time three years ago and was one of their successful penalty takers last season.

"To score in a final is an amazing feeling," said the 27-year-old. "The adrenaline going through your body after you've scored the goal is incredible, indescribable.

"I think winning the Champions League is definitely right up there and will always live in the memory. The experience of lifting that trophy, you dream about it when you're a kid."

It would be a fairytale for Bale to see Real crowned champions of Europe for the 12th time, but the tears will also flow if Buffon helps Juve end a 21-year wait for their third success.