Atletico Madrid will look to complete an amazing double this weekend when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Lisbon on Saturday.
Having secured their first La Liga title since 1996 against Barcelona on Saturday, a feat they were 66/1 to accomplish when the season started, they are bound to be on a high, but injuries have struck which could make life a little more difficult for them.
Diego Costa has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, depriving Diego Simeone’s team of the man responsible for 35% of his side’s league goals this season and the player who netted eight goals in eight Champions League games. Arda Turan is also a doubt for the final, also picking up an injury during the first half against Barcelona.
They will, of course, be able to turn to former Barca-man David Villa, but he has failed to score in his last six Champions League games and will not offer the same threat that Costa brings to the side.
But it’s not just Atleti who have concerns over injuries. Real Madrid are sweating on the fitness of Ronaldo who has missed recent matches with injury but is expected to recover, although what part he can play will not be clear until the game gets underway. Even despite carrying this injury, he’s still odds-on to score in the game, unsurprising really given that he has netted 16 goals already in this year’s competition. Ronaldo as first goalscorer is available for around 3/1 which surely has to be tempting. Pepe is also expected to be fit having recently missed out through injury as well.
Real Madrid will also be without midfielder Xavi Alonso who is suspended after being needlessly booked in the semi-final second leg game against Bayern Munich. Gareth Bale will, however, be available to play in his first Champions League final and at around 2/1 to score at anytime could well be worth a punt given his record so far this season.
It is certainly a hard game to call. Real Madrid, man-for-man, have the better side and it’s no surprise that they are the odds-on favourites with many bookies across the country. If you can find them at evens you’ll be doing well.
Conversely, Atletico Madrid are priced at more than 3/1 and that seems like a very generous price given their performances this year under the guidance of Diego Simeone, a manager who has guided them to a Copa Del Rey, Europa League, Super Cup and La Liga title in the three years he has been manager there.
Finals are unique in that form leading up to the game can rarely be an indicator of how the match will go. Bookies aren’t stupid and that’s why they have Real Madrid as favourites, but that doesn’t account for the spirit in the Atletico Madrid camp and their ability to perform as a unit greater than the sum of its parts.
If I had to call it I’d lean towards Atletico Madrid, but that’s only because I do love an underdog. What will happen on Saturday night is anyone’s guess, but it is certainly set to be a great match whatever happens.by