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The Final Two

May 23, 2017

The end is near, only two teams remain in the UEFA Champions League. On June 3, 2017, the winner will be crowned as the best team in Europe.

The reigning champions, Real Madrid, have once again reached the semi-final stage of the Champions League and based on their games against long-time rival, Atletico Madrid, they have set the path for the final in Cardiff. On the other end of the spectrum is the Old Lady, Juventus. This is Juventus’ second bout in a Champions League final since their loss to FC Barcelona in the 2014/2015 iteration of the tournament.

The favorites to win the tournament is Real Madrid, and it is hard to deny these claims. Real Madrid have played a terrific season, currently, they’re neck-and-neck with rivals FC Barcelona for the La Liga title, and their all-star player Cristiano Ronaldo is the new all-time top scorer for the Champions League overall with a whopping 103 goals in 139 games, that’s an average of .74 goals per game. Real Madrid showed their ultimate superiority in the tournament when they defeated favorites and German titans Bayern Munich, in a crushing 6-3 defeat on aggregate in mid-April. Coming from personal experiences, I can vouch that many people were utterly shocked by how badly the Germans were beaten.  Now, on to the team’s lineup. Real Madrid’s defense is also one to look out for, starting from the back we have the Spanish tank that is Sergio Ramos. This man has played a pivotal role in Real Madrid’s journey to the final, he’s acted as a solid wall in the back and also managed to act as a great offensive player. Also Pepe, the rage machine, he no longer has his outbursts but has still maintained a solid wall in the back-line stopping almost every player that gets in his way. Up front, there is no question in who their star player is, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has played exceptionally well in the tournament, managing to maintain an average of .83 goals per game. His speed and versatility will prove useful to slip through the tight Juventus defense and to slip behind the wall that is the legend, Gianluigi Buffon. Overall, Real Madrid is set for the final and could easily win if they play their cards right and the referee isn’t blind or biased.

Juventus (a.k.a the Old Lady or the Italian giants) is once again in a Champions League final, their previous bout ended in a loss to FC Barcelona, but now they are determined to win. Juventus has practically won their league, the Serie A, sitting a decent four points ahead of Roma. Even though they aren’t breaking any records in the league, they are dominating. Perhaps most surprising and satisfying to a Juventus fan was their victory against FC Barcelona. Juventus started their game off strong with them being up by a goal in less than 10 minutes and ending up winning the game by a hefty score of 3-0. I must admit I was utterly shocked Barcelona didn’t score at least one goal, especially since their front line-up consists of Luis Suarez, Neymar and the legend Lionel Messi. However, Juventus learned from their mistakes two years ago and they managed to control and subdue Messi with a solid defensive back line lead by Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Alex Sandro and the ex-Barcelona right back Dani Alves. However, credit must be given where credit is due, the legendary Gianluigi Buffon is still kicking it in the goal, saving each shot thrown against him, and the guy is 39! And he’s still playing at the top of his game, he’s like a good wine, with each year he gets better and better. Sadly he’ll be retiring after playing in his sixth (!) FIFA World Cup, which so happens to be next year, oh did I forget to mention he won World Cup back in ‘06? Yeah, the guy’s a legend. Well, enough of him, for now. On to the front-lines! The two strikers that have helped the Old Lady cross the street to Victory Lane are Argentines, one is a seasoned player, Gonzalo Higuain and the other is a fairly new guy who has quickly made a name for himself, and that is Paulo Dybala. Dybala’s agility and speed will be needed to outrun and maneuver behind Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Higuain’s brute strength will be needed to keep the two off the ball. Together they have ten goals in the tournament and are ready to shoot all through Keylor Navas.

The Champions League Final is proving itself to be one hell of a game. Two teams who are at the top in their leagues (tied for first for Real Madrid), two teams with solid defensive back lines and solid strike force, the match will be one to remember. Don’t forget to tune in on June 3, 2017, to watch the final unfold and see who will be the winner of the Champions League.

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