By Antony Jordan
The European football season comes to a close this Saturday evening as Juventus take on Real Madrid in a clash of the Italian Serie A and Spanish La Liga champions in the Champions League Final. The Millennium Stadium in Wales hosts this biggest match of the season, but the big question is will Juventus be able to claim their first title since 1996 or can Real Madrid become the first side to retain the trophy since the competition became the Champions League?
We are previewing this title decider with online sportsbook Bet365.com to bring you the best odds and our top Champions League Final pick.
Coming into this enormous match, the Italian side had only one real injury doubt in former Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira, but in excellent news for manager Massimiliano Allegri the German has overcome his issues and is fit to play against his old side. This sees the Serie A champions at full strength as they aim to secure their first title in more than two decades in the Champions League and confident that they can triumph.
Real had double the amount of injury worries to that of Juventus as both Gareth Bale and Dani Carvajal were doubtful for this final but, just like Khedira, both have pulled through and are fit for this final. This will be especially important for Bale who returns to his homeland looking to help Real secure back to back Champions League titles, but with Isco having played some excellent football in his absence will the Welsh star manage to start this clash?
Juventus have the best defensive record in the Champions League this season as they have conceded a total of three goals in their 12 group and knockout stage matches this season. Two of these were conceded in the group and the only goal conceded in the knockout section of the competition came in the Semi Finals were they were already 4-0 up against Monaco. They have seen off two Spanish sides already with a win and a draw against Sevilla in the group stages as well as keeping two clean sheets against Barcelona in the Quarter Finals. They ended the season with just one defeat in 12 matches in all competitions as they lifted the league and cup double in Italy, so we expect them to all their utmost to secure the treble and if they can continue to shackle attacking players like they have done all season then there is an excellent chance of this happening.
While Juventus are the competitions best defensive side, Real Madrid make up the other side of that coin as their 12 matches in this competition have seen them produce a massive 32 goals. They are the top scorers in the Champions League this season and even with Juventus’ defensive record the Spaniards will be confident of being able to score their way to victory in their third final in four years. However, with just one clean sheet in 12 Champions League games this season and 17 goals conceded in the 11 other games in this competition Real certainly have issues defensively and this could cost them in this decider as Juventus’ attacking line up is their best in a long time.
These sides have met in competitive fixtures on ten occasions since 2003 and, surprisingly, it is the Italians who have had the better time of things in these fixtures. They have won five and drawn two of these clashes, while Real have won just once since 2005 and the Spanish side come into this match without a victory of Juventus in their last three meetings. Despite this poor record Real have the edge in Champions League Finals as they have won 11 of their 14 clashes compared to just two wins in eight for the Serie A champions, while the only previous decider between the sides in 1998 saw Madrid secure a 1-0 win in Amsterdam.
We are in agreement with the Bet365 odds for this Champions League Final in that it could very well be either of these two sides that lifts the title on Saturday night. We slightly favour Juventus despite their poor history in European finals thanks to their excellent defensive and ability to take advantage of Real’s poor defensive record also. We believe that there is plenty of value on the Italian side to lift this trophy and we are backing this outcome to happen in Cardiff this weekend.