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UEFA Champions League Final 2014: The World Turns to Madrid

Last year, the world watched as Germany had a domestic encounter in the UEFA Champions League Final. This year, for 2014, the UEFA Champions League Final is an altogether cosier affair, a tale not of two cities, but of one, as the two bitter rivals of Madrid face-off in club football’s greatest competition.

This evening, in Lisbon, newly crowned La Liga Champions, Atlético Madrid, are looking to emerge fully from the shadow of their illustrious neighbours, Real, and collect the most impressive double in the world game.

To do so, they must overcome one of the most awe-inspiring front-lines there is. Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo – who has been in scintillating form in Europe this season: scoring a best-ever 16 goals already in the competition – Real have immense attacking resources to draw upon, including Gareth Bale and Benzema, both of whom have great power, pace and finishing ability.

Atlético have built their strongest season in recent years on a number of key elements: clean sheets; the powerful goalscoring outlet of Diego Costa; and a team spirit and grit driven by the truly magnificent inspirational management of Diego Simeone. They will need at least two out of those three to win today; and even then it may not be enough.

Real have a strong defence of their own, backed up by a couple of fantastic goalkeepers in the experienced Casillas and his impresive deputy Diego Lopez, but it is in going forwards that they most often impress. In the Semi Final, Real steamrollered the usually resilient Bayern Munich with a first 45 minutes that would have blown away anyone. A repeat of that for even a short while, and their fans with have the loudest last laugh in Lisbon.

But Atlético will be buoyed by their recent last-gasp 1-1 draw against Barcelona to clinch La Liga in the final match. They needed to avoid defeat against perhaps the biggest club in the world. They did it. The sort of confidence that kind of result engenders in a squad of players is difficult to artificially create. They know they can do it when it matters; because they already have. A fortnight ago.

What could look like a family affair, being a derby game between two intense rivals played out at a neutral venue, then, is in fact a finely balanced cup final which looks on paper like being the perfect collision of opposites. A mouthwatering football match lies in wait for football fans everywhere.

This one cannot be missed.

Where and When

UEFA Champions League Final 2014 kicks-off at 20:45 CET in Lisbon, Portugal. The match referee will be Björn Kuipers of the Netherlands.

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Stories from the Sport Desk at The Global Herald.

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