Real Madrid Champions League final news: Zidane, Ronaldo, Felix Brych
With the Champions League final in Cardiff upon us, AS English brings you a round-up of the goings-on as Real Madrid prepare to face Juventus.
Cardiff precedent for Madrid and Ronaldo
The Welsh capital is hosting its second European final after staging the 2014 Supercup when Real Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0. Cristiano Ronaldo scored both goals that evening to lift the title with Zinedine Zidane on the bench alongside Carlo Ancelotti. Should Ronaldo bag another brace in the Millennium Stadium, he will reach 600 career professional goals. The Portuguese has fond memories of Cardiff: he won his first major title there when Manchester United won the 2003-04 FA Cup.
The Italian side have five players who have featured for more minutes than any of Real Madrid’s squad this season with Zidane sticking to his policy of rotation in the latter stages of the season. Real’s most-used player is Toni Kroos, who has clocked 4,515 minutes across all competitions this season. For Juventus, Gonzalo Higuaín has barely missed a second of the 2016-17 campaign, racking up 5,194 minutes. The Argentinean striker is followed by Leonardo Bonucci (4,755), Gianluigi Buffon (4,695), Mario Mandzukic (4,586) and Sami Khedira (4,558).
Another Brych in the wall
Felix Brych is taking charge of his first Champions League final in Cardiff. The German official, an international referee since 2007, has overseen six Real Madrid games in his career with a balance of four wins and two draws for Los Blancos. The 41-year-old has overseen three Juventus games, with the Old Lady victorious on two occasions and on the losing side once.
Zidane on cusp of history
Only four coaches in the history of the European Cup / Champions League have won the tournament in their first season in charge: Miguel Muñoz (Real Madrid, 1959-60); Tony Barton (Aston Villa, 1981-82); Pep Guardiola (Barcelona, 2008-09) and Zidane last season. None of the former three managers repeated their success the following year. Zidane can not only achieve that feat in Cardiff but also become the first coach since Arrigo Sacchi in 1990 to guide a club to two successive titles, when the Italian schemer led Milan to European Cup glory in Vienna.
Real Madrid are narrow favourites in Cardiff according to the bookies but there are a few more outlandish bets available on the game. Paddy Power has come up with a few outside odds including 25/1 on Gerard Piqué tweeting a picture of Sergio Ramos at any stage during the match. You can get 500/1 on Zidane headbutting Massimiliano Allegri and 1,000/1 on Sepp Blatter parachuting into the Millennium Stadium with the match ball, one that was presumably dreamed up before it was announced the final would be played under a closed roof.