If there is a saying that European football resides in Spain, then it's even safer to assert that this dominance has further trickled into Madrid, as a team from MADRID would certainly be in the UEFA Champions League final for the 3rd time in four years, with the two previous times being all Madrid finals.
Rivalry that was once domestic has been shipped off to the continental level. This year, the responsibility placed on either team from MADRID is to deny their neighbors passage and book a place in the final of the European holy grail for the 3rd time in four years.
Both teams boast of a great number of talented players with quality capable of deciding the outcome of football matches.
Real Madrid would be playing at home tonight and would want nothing more than to kill off the game and make the second leg a formality but the defensive structure and 'never say die' attitude of their opponents would make it harder to dream.
A lot would depend on this man tonight coming straight from a 5 goal haul in their previous tie with Bayern and boasting of 100 UCL goals. He can be called a master of the game. He would want to extend his good run and has a good opportunity to do it against bitter rivals. Ronaldo thrives in fierce rivalries.
Has established himself over the years as one of the most dangerous men alive in front of goal while boasting of lightning pace and tremendous footwork. He'd have a say in this tie and we can only guess how decisive that would be. A real handful for Ramos and his partners.
MARCELO VS JUANFRAN
The tricky Brazilian has been arguably Real Madrid's best player in recent times and has proved to be a threat in the opponent's box even with his superb goal this weekend. Juanfran on the other hand has always been an unsung hero eliminating attacking threats for atletico and providing delicious crosses for the likes of Antoine and the in form Gameiro.
Just like his Brazilian compatriot , the Atletico Madrid left back can decide the outcome of games and has the ability to make intelligent runs and win decisive penalty kicks for his team.
The changes Zidane has made have been remarkable one of which has been the increased importance of Casemiro in the Real Madrid style of play. The Brazilian has since formed a formidable midfield partnership with Kroos and Modric and has been the major disruptor, destroying the attacks of many opposing teams with his intelligent interceptions and exceptional tackling. The rise of Casemiro has not been very good news for James Rodriguez and Isco Alcaron who has delivered excellently when called upon this season. There have been glimpses of Zidane's supposed inexperience getting the better of him also, just like in the just concluded El Clasico where Madrid lost the game in the final minutes after just equalizing with a one man disadvantage. They had players pouring out in numbers when they could have maintained their shape for a draw which was a favorable result considering the numerical disadvantage.
Diego Simeone has established himself as a heavyweight amongst managers , transforming his team over the years from just participants to major title contenders. His tactics has a unique way of making his team stay really compact and yet create enough chances to win games. He would love a clean sheet today and knows exactly what to do to get one.
LIKELY STARTING LINEUPS
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