Cape Town - It’s all set for a dream final this weekend as two teams with huge European pedigrees will clash in the first UCL showpiece to be held in Cardiff.
The form book certainly suggests a classic contrast of styles as Real Madrid go into the final with the best attacking record (32 goals scored) and Juventus go in with the best defensive record (3 goals conceded).
The clubs are two of the most frequent finalists in the last 25 seasons. It’s the sixth final appearance for both teams in the UCL era (which is the joint most with AC Milan) and it’s also a repeat of the 1997/98 final in Amsterdam. Real Madrid won 1-0 that day.
In an interesting coincidence, Zinedine Zidane played for Juventus in that final and will be representing Real Madrid as a coach this weekend.
These teams also represent two of the most successful nations in the history of the tournament. Spain lead the way on the continent with 16 tournament wins (11 coming from Real Madrid) and Italy are joint second on the list with 12 (Juventus providing 2 of those titles).
A Real Madrid win would be the fourth time in a row that the trophy has been won by a Spanish club, which will be the first time one nation has had a streak that long since 1982 (the end of a period of England having 6 winners in a row).
The record winners could also be the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era (AC Milan were the last team to win the trophy twice in a row in 1989 and 1990), which of course means Zinedine Zidane would be the first coach to win the tournament back-to-back in this period – an extraordinary feat when you consider that it’s also his first two seasons as a first team coach.
A 12th title for Real Madrid would also mean back-to-back trophies as a captain for Sergio Ramos, who also stands a chance to become the first player to score in 3 UCL finals following up his goals in 2014 and 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo could also achieve the same feat having scored in 2008 for Manchester United and 2014 in Real Madrid’s famous La Decima win.
Victory for Los Blancos would also keep their 100% finals record in the UCL era intact with success in all 6 appearances at UEFA’s showpiece event.
As for Juventus, they have some more unfortunate finals memories. They hold the record for the most finals lost in the tournament with 6, having lost 4 in a row since their last UCL win in 1996.
They go into the final unbeaten this campaign, unlike Real Madrid whose only loss came in the second leg of the semi-final against Atletico Madrid. The Old Lady could be the sixth team to win this tournament with an unbeaten record (Manchester United were the last team to do so in 2008).
After winning the Serie A title as well as the Coppa Italia this season, Juventus could also become the fifth club in the UCL era to win the main treble, which would see Massimiliano Allegri join the elite list of managers achieving this that includes Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jupp Heynckes and Luis Enrique.
No-one typifies the Bianconeri’s recent history better than goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. He’s won 14 major tournaments for both club and country in his career, but has never won the UCL (he’s been a runner-up twice). He’ll be 39 years and 126 days old on the day of the final and if he’s on the winning side, he’ll be the tournament’s oldest ever winner.
While Buffon has got 8 clean sheets to his name in this campaign, he hasn’t been able to pull one off against Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star has come up against Buffon in 4 UCL matches and has scored in every one.
Ronaldo has scored 10 goals in this year’s tournament (one behind Lionel Messi’s total) and is the first player to reach double figures in 6 consecutive UCL campaigns (no-one else has done that more than twice in a row).
With all these stars on show in Cardiff, it’s all set up for a memorable night in UCL history with either Los Blancos mainly looking to extend their list of impressive tournament credentials and Juventus looking to put some of their unwanted tournament records to an end.