Champions League final’s key battles: Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid
GABI v LUKA MODRIC
With Xabi Alonso suspended, Madrid will look to the Croatian for creative inspiration in the middle of the park. Modric has found his feet playing in his favoured deeper role in his second season at the club, helping the team retain more possession than under Jose Mourinho, as well as improving his defensive work. It will be the job of Atletico’s captain Gabi to limit Modric’s distribution and influence on the game, but the Spaniard will also be looking to make his own mark on the final through his long balls and deliveries from set pieces. Like his Real counterpart, the 29-year-old is not afraid to try his luck at shooting from range either, hammering past Diego Lopez from 40 yards in March’s 2-2 derby draw at the Calderon.
CRISTIANO RONALDO v DIEGO GODIN
The prolific Portuguese has already made Champions League history by firing in a record 16 goals this campaign, as well as surpassing the scoring record of Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano. He will be desperate to grab the headlines in his third European Cup final - his first for Real - but has only managed one goal from open play in four matches against Atletico this term. Standing in his way will be the rock solid Godin, who can match his opponent in aerial duels and will use his excellent positional sense to snuff out Ronaldo’s surges into the area.
GARETH BALE v FILIPE LUIS
The Welshman has endured a mixed record against the toughest opponents in his first season in Spain, but his stunning match winner against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final silenced the doubters. Atletico will look to limit the impact of the former Tottenham man’s phenomenal pace by limiting the amount of space he can run into, and that is where the highly disciplined Brazilian full-back comes in. Luis, who has been linked with a summer move to Chelsea, rarely gets caught out of position and ventures forward less often than his fellow full-back Juanfran. However, if Bale switches to his favoured left wing - where his goal against Barca originated - he may find more joy.
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Published: May 23, 2014 04:00 AM