Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid: San Siro the stage for Champions League final re-run
Cristiano Ronaldo believes experience will count in Real Madrid’s favour when they meet Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday.
The decider in Milan is the second time in three seasons two teams from the Spanish capital have met in the biggest game of the European club campaign.
Atletico, leading 1-0 and with the clock running down, looked set to win in Lisbon in 2014, only for Madrid to equalise in the 93rd minute, before going on to win 4-1 in extra-time at Estadio da Luz.
That triumph marked the culmination of Los Blancos’ quest to win ‘La Decima’, their 10th European Cup.
And Ronaldo, who is expected to recover from a thigh injury scare to feature at San Siro, feels the outcome of that game can offer Madrid an advantage in the re-match.
“We’re on a good path,” he said.
“We finished La Liga well and we want to achieve a good victory on Saturday, which will define Real Madrid’s season. We’re confident we can achieve it.
“A lot of the time experience is very important and in this aspect we’ve got a small advantage. Atletico will be alert as a result of what happened two years ago and I hope the game will be different.
“Atletico will want to win but we are ready. We’re going to play with intensity and I’m confident about a victory.”
Traditional underdogs Atletico continue to defy expectations by competing for major honours under head coach Diego Simeone in recent years.
Saul Niguez, on loan at Rayo Vallecano when Atleti won La Liga and lost the Champions League final to Madrid in 2013-14, is one of the latest talents to make a name for himself at Vicente Calderon.
The 21-year-old, a former Madrid academy player, scored a memorable solo goal in the first leg of Atleti’s semi-final triumph over Bayern Munich and feels the squad are well placed to exact revenge this weekend.
“The team is doing fine, we have worked very well during these two weeks and I think we arrive at the final at a great moment, very well psychologically and even better physically,” he said.
“I think that it will be a tough match. We know that we play a great team, we know that anything can happen in a final. But I think the match is fifty-fifty and that we arrive [to it] at a good time.”
Since that defeat at the hands of Madrid in the 2014 final, Atletico have only lost once to their cross-city rivals in 10 meetings, winning five times.
“I think that the previous matches we have played against Madrid reassure us and we have to be reassured to play well,” Saul said.
Asked what the decisive factor will be in determining the outcome, he added: “I don’t think there’s anything that’s key, instead you have to look at the details.
“I think that they are going to be crucial in these types of games, in which there’s so much pressure. That’s why the details are going to be key.”
Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, seeking to win club football’s biggest prize in his first season as a senior coach, is without centre-back Raphael Varane due to a thigh injury that has ruled the France international out of Euro 2016.
Lucas Vasquez sat out Madrid’s final match of the Liga season away to Deportivo La Coruna due to a medial knee ligament strain but is expected to be fit for the final if selected.
Simeone, meanwhile, has a full-strength squad to choose from.