Champions League Final Preview

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Man, the NBA thinks the Champions League has a long wait before the final. College football considers the gap between semi-final and final excessive. It feels like it’s been a year since some Champions League footy was last played. I almost forgot to do this preview, it’s been so long. But, we finally made it to the final. The game match to end all matches. What better place to celebrate the game than historic Cardiff, home of all the world’s greatest clubs? None that I can think of. Luckily, as an American, I haven’t been subjected to countless talk about how this game will affect Ronaldo’s legacy. Everyone’s been too busy debating LeBron’s legacy for that. So, freed from the weightiness of history, I can sit back and enjoy what’s sure to be an epic clash.

This is kind of like Juventus’ semi-final matchup, only if Monaco suddenly switched to Amateur difficulty level. It’s a similar offense vs. defense clash, but Real Madrid is in a different class offensively than anyone in the world save Barcelona. Ronaldo is truly the LeBron of soccer-he’s still great, and, by changing with both the game and his own physical “limitations,” somehow getting better. He’s surrounded by an absurd collection of attacking talent: Benzema, Isco, Kroos, Modric, Marcelo. Gareth Bale, even if he’s healthy, might come off the bench! This team can beat you any way they choose, and if Juventus’ (gracefully) aging defense can’t keep up, this’ll be over fast (that’s why they call me a Soccer Expert, folks). But, isn’t that what they (me) said last round? Yeah, the defense is old. But it’s still the best in the world. The Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini triumvirate just shut down a Monaco team that is just as fast (if not faster) than Madrid. Gigi Buffon may have discovered the actual Fountain of Youth. And Juventus isn’t trotting out the expansion Buccaneers, either. They can score, and score quickly. Considering Pepe is still injured for Real, if they’re shaky at all in the back Juventus could put two or three on them in the blink of an eye. Dybala and Higuain are a deadly one-two punch.

In situations like this, I’ll usually pick the team I think can control the midfield. All the scoring and defending in the world is great, but if you get dominated in the middle, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. That’s why I’m leaning Real. I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a blowout either way, but I do think it’ll come down to the wire. Will it be penalties again? Well, that depends on if Ronaldo’s having a good ab day or not. Juventus better make sure a ton of McDonald’s magically makes its way to his hotel room, because if those things are poppin’ and glistenin’ in the Welsh twilight, you know his shirt is getting ripped off at least once in celebration.

Prediction: Real Madrid Wins (But Juventus at even odds looks pretty good)

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