Football

Irresistible force meets immovable object

Free-scoring Real Madrid may have found their match in the water-tight defence of Juventus

FINAL
JUVENTUS REAL MADRID

When Real Madrid line up to face Juventus in the Champions League final on Sunday morning (Singapore time), the competition's meanest defence will meet an irresistible attack.

The Italian side have conceded three goals in 12 games while Real have scored in 64 consecutive matches in all competitions, usurping the previous European record of 61 held by Bayern Munich.

Since their 0-0 draw with Manchester City in last season's semi-final first leg, Real have not failed to find the back of the net in a match. For the first time ever, Real went through an entire La Liga season scoring in every game they played, netting 105 times in total.

TACTICAL FORMATIONS

Coach Zinedine Zidane has frequently shuffled his pack, varying between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 tactical formations.

With Gareth Bale's return to fitness, Zidane must decide whether to restore the Welshman in his home city or to continue with Isco, who has excelled lately, in support of the free-scoring Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Captain Sergio Ramos admits the players are not sure which option Zidane will go with.

We know they're a side who defend well and concede very few goals, but we also know our weapons. We can cause harm at set-pieces and we'll do everything to get the first goal, be it a header from me or one from the boss. Real Madrid's captain Sergio Ramos

He said: "Not even us lot know how we're going to line up. We need to wait and see what happens but the good news is that we have a number of options."

Juve shipped in just 27 goals en route to the Serie A title and veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been beaten just once in six knock-out ties this season.

Their backline - comprising hardened trio Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli - has at times seemed impenetrable, shutting out Barcelona's renowned strike force in the quarter-finals.

Ramos added: "We know they're a side who defend well and concede very few goals, but we also know our weapons.

"We can cause harm at set-pieces and we'll do everything to get the first goal, be it a header from me or one from the boss."

Ronaldo's move to a central forward position has coincided with the side's goal-scoring run and the Portuguese has been in fine form recently.

The switch has seen Ronaldo overtake Jimmy Greaves as the top goal-scorer in Europe's top five leagues with 368 goals between the Premier League and La Liga, while also passing the milestones of 400 goals for Real and 100 Champions League strikes.

His return of 13 goals in his last nine appearances, with back-to-back hat-tricks in the quarters and semis of the Champions League, means he will once again be key to his side's hopes of becoming the first team to successfully defend the European Cup in its current format.

Ronaldo has faced Buffon four times and scored on each occasion.

The Portuguese said: "This final will be similar to the previous ones (against Atletico Madrid); it's basically a coin flip.

"While Juventus certainly have a superb defence, there is always a weak spot. We need to find out how to attack it."

- REUTERS

Champions LeagueJUVENTUS FCREAL MADRID