This season had an unexpected turn of events in some championships, leading to certain surprises. I’ll just list some of them here:
Monaco. AS Monaco is, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the season. At the beginning of the season, you’d expect PSG to win another title in Ligue 1. But a young and talented Monaco squad, with the youngster Mbappe and a revived Falcao as main protagonists, not only won their first championship in 17 years, but also made it to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, being up from the third qualifying round.
Feyenoord. With all the heroics of Ajax’s road to the Europa League final, it’s Feyenoord who made the biggest noise in Netherlands this season. You would expect a battle between Ajax and PSV in Eredivisie this season, but Feyenoord had an amazing season with ups and turnarounds ended with the first league title win after 18 years.
Rijeka. Leaders in Prva NHL, with 5 points over Dinamo Zagreb and two rounds remaining, Rijeka are close to end their 70 years await for a championship title if they win Saturday against Cibala. Rijeka had an outstanding internal season, remaining undefeated for 31 rounds until losing to Lokomotiva Zagreb 0-1.
Viitorul Constanta. A team founded in 2009 by Romanian football legend, Gheorghe Hagi, who serves as both owner and manager, has managed to prove the odds wrong and win the Romanian league, their first major trophy.
Juventus and Real Madrid made the UEFA Champions League final at Cardiff by eliminating Monaco, respectively Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals, proving both of my predictions from the last blog post wrong.
It was bound to happen, though…
Now, the Cardiff final will be the 19th meeting between Juventus and Real Madrid in European cometitons and a rematch of the 1998 UCL final at Amsterdam. Last time the two teams met it was in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, when Juve eliminated Real Madrid in the semi-finals only to lose the final against Barcelona at Berlin.
Now, looking at these two teams it’s hard to make a prediction because any of them can end up lifting the trophy. Juventus’ good defensive playing style is bringing flashbacks of their rivals Inter in 2010 (to the point the chances of becoming the second Italian team to win a treble are very realistic), while Real Madrid has a top attack and an organised defense and they are up in the race of becoming the first team to defend their trophy in the new format.
Hello, today we’ll talk, thorough, about the Champions League draws.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
Despite their unbeaten run in La Liga from 2013 until the 0-3 on Vicente Calderon last autumn, Atletico has never managed to beat Real in the UEFA Champions League. The two sides met in two finals (2014 and 2016), as well as in the 1958/59 semi-final and 2014/15 quarter-final; all meetings were won by Real. Given Atletico’s highly underperforming season and their lack of mentality against their bitter rivals, I’d go on and say Real are favorites on making the final this year. However… no team has managed to defend their trophy in the current format yet and Atletico might seek revenge for all these times they were kicked out by their local rivals. I think it’s going to be an interesting fixture.
Monaco vs Juventus
It’s the third meeting in the Champions League between the two sides, the previous (1997/98 semi-finals and 2014/15 quarter-finals) being won by the Bianconeri. Also, Monaco are clinching their first semi-final since 2004, while Juventus lost the 2015 final vs Barcelona. Most regard Juve as favorites, with their fast attacking style and very good defence led them to being compared with their rivals Inter Milan in 2010, but Monaco has what it takes to break the odds again: they have a very good attack, able to score goals on away games and play like lions in their home matches.
I think the 2017 UEFA Champions League final is going to be Monaco vs Atletico Madrid. What makes me say that? Well, both teams have a history of being knocked out by the teams they are facing and some things need to end. It’s now or never for both of them.