Champions League Final Preview: Juventus vs Real Madrid
Two of Europe’s most decorated clubs meet in the biggest game in European club competition, the Champions League final. The Infogol Analyst uses statistical data to come up with the best bets for the big match, with Juventus and Real Madrid locking horns.
There is no doubt that Real Madrid have dominated this competition in recent history, winning the trophy 11 times since its inception including five times in the last 20 years. Madrid are aiming to become the first team in the history of the competition to successfully defend their title and win La Duodecima.
Juventus have reached eight Champions League finals in their history, but have gone on to lift the trophy only twice, meaning they have lost in the final more times than any other club. Their last European success was back in 1996, when they beat Ajax on penalties, with successive final defeats following – in which Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane featured for The Old Lady.
So, two of Europe’s biggest clubs battling it out; one to make history and become the first team to retain the trophy and the other to put an end to the longest losing streak in Champions League finals (currently four) and become only the ninth team to win the treble.
The Old Lady have had a tough route through to the final but got there with ease, never really in trouble in any of their knock-out round ties. Coming through a Group of Sevilla, Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb, Juventus finished top and drew Porto in the next round. A 3-0 aggregate win saw them progress to face Barcelona, whom they dispatched in the first leg 3-0 and held them to a goalless draw in the second, an impressive feat. A youthful Monaco team was put between them and the Champions League final and there was no stopping the Italians, as they came through with flying colours thanks to a 4-1 aggregate win.
The strength of Juventus in this season’s Champions League has no doubt been their defence. They have conceded just three times in 12 matches in the competition, breached only by Lyon, Sevilla and Monaco. They have been lucky in that sense, though, as their expected goals against (xGA) so far is 10.7. Based on the chances created against them, there is just a 0.48% chance that they would have conceded only three.
Fortunate - Juventus conceding only three times from 10.7 xG
Higuain, the former Real Madrid man, is Juventus’ top-scorer in the competition this season, with five goals to his name. Although his overall record in the knockout stages of the Champions League reads an uninspiring four goals from 26 matches, he is definitely one of their danger man, with a team high expected goal involvement per 90 minutes (xGI/90) of 0.54.
Higuain and Dani Alves - Juve's key players
Dani Alves has been a standout for Juventus in the latter stages of the Champions League, and the ex-Barcelona man will be looking to get one over on his old rivals. He really stepped up in the semi-finals, scoring one and assisting three in Juve’s 4-1 aggregate win. Alves has been Juventus’ top creator, racking up 3.2 expected assists and leading the way on actual goal involvement (ActGI), playing a part in seven goals in the Champions League. Alves will be key for the Old Lady and should have an interesting battle with fellow Brazilian Marcelo.
Key Players - xG chart of Juventus players
Los Blancos have been made to work to get to the final. Their Group consisted of Sporting Lisbon, Legia Warsaw and Borussia Dortmund, and three draws meant that they came out of it as runners-up. Madrid drew Napoli in the next round and were dominant in both legs as they qualified 6-2 on aggregate. It was Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, and luck was on Madrid’s side with Bayern being reduced to 10-men in both ties, but they still needed extra-time to progress, eventually running out 6-3 winners on aggregate as Ronaldo helped himself to five. At the semi-final stage, a repeat of the 2016 final against City rivals Atletico saw Ronaldo net another hat-trick, and a moment of brilliance from Benzema decided the tie.
There is no doubt that Real Madrid possess an immense amount of talent, and Zidane has done well to master and get the best out of every individual player. The squad depth has allowed them to compete at the highest standard in both La Liga and the Champions League. They are aiming to do the League and Champions League double for the first time since 1958 after pipping Barcelona to the post domestically. Real carry a much greater attacking threat than Juventus, generating nearly 10 xG more than their Italian counterparts in this season’s Champions League.
Danger men - Real Madrid's key contributors this season
There is no doubting who Real Madrid’s danger man is; Cristiano Ronaldo. Zidane has managed him very well this season, resting Ronaldo for league games in order to have him fresh for these big nights in the Champions League.
Ronaldo after La Liga success
And the manager has been rewarded.
The Portuguese superstar has scored eight goals in his last four Champions League matches, hitting five against Bayern Munich and three against Atletico – so not exactly against ‘easy’ opponents. He is averaging a staggering 1.09 xGI/90 minutes, so will definitely have a key part to play in this final.
Karim Benzema also deserves a mention, with the French international the second most productive player in the Madrid team. He should have scored more goals himself this season from the chances he has had, but Benzema contributes a lot to the team and works well with Ronaldo.
Where this tie could be won is with the substitutes available to both managers. While Juventus have a good looking bench with the likes of Lichtsteiner and Asamoah, it is nothing compared to what Real Madrid have to offer.
Impact - Players expected to be on Real Madrid's bench
With the likes of James Rodriguez, Isco, Asensio, Morata, Kovacic and Vazquez expected on the bench, Zidane has a plethora of potential match-winners up his sleeve.
Though none of them have really played that many minutes in the Champions League, they have been an integral part to the success of Madrid this season, playing a huge role in winning the La Liga title when fixtures were coming thick and fast. When they have played, they have contributed, with every player averaging over 0.3 xGI/90. So if the game is tight, expect to see a game-changer come off the Real Madrid bench.
A lot of people are calling this a game of attack vs defence but, in fact, both teams are very capable of doing both. The two teams are very evenly matched, but Real Madrid have an edge in attack and in the players that they can bring off the bench, so they are worth backing to get the win and become the first team to land the Champions League back-to-back.
Real Madrid to win the Champions League @ 5/6
Real Madrid to win in 90 mins @ 13/8
Benzema to score first @ 7/1