Real can end 12 years of European agony and land ‘La Decima’

 
Bill Esdaile
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REAL Madrid are the record nine-time European Cup winners. But they landed the first five when the competition was in its infancy and, aside from a dizzying spell in the late 90s and early 00s, when they won three Champions Leagues in five seasons, Europe has been rather disappointing for the biggest club in the world.

Tomorrow evening they have the chance to land ‘La Decima’ – the fabled 10th European Cup – and show the continent they are back. But they face a stern challenge against Atletico Madrid, competing in their first European Cup final since 1974.

Diego Simeone’s men have already shocked Spanish football by becoming the first club in 10 years to break up the Barcelona/Real Madrid domination of La Liga.

Having been available at 100/1 at the start of the season, they held their nerve at the Nou Camp to land a first league title since 1996 and have arguably been the best side in the Champions League this campaign.

They are the first since Manchester United in 2008 to reach the final without losing a game and, considering they’ve had to play Porto, AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea en route to the showpiece final in Portugal, that’s no mean feat.

The Spanish capital’s second club also boast the best defensive record, conceding only six goals in their 12 games so far – and only three in their six knock-out matches.

Atletico will need that defence to be at the top of their game if they are to repel a prolific Real team that has plundered 37 Champions League goals this term, headed by Cristiano Ronaldo’s record-breaking 16 strikes.

Los Rojiblancos might have to do things the hard way as star striker Diego Costa, who has eight goals in eight appearances in the competition, is a major doubt after sustaining a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Barca last Saturday.

Real have had injury scares of their own concerning Ronaldo and Gareth Bale but both are set to be passed fit and together with Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema they form a formidable attacking line.

Los Blancos destroyed reigning champions Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals and on the back of that rightfully go into this game as 10/11 favourites with Paddy Power, who are also refunding selected markets if Bale scores anytime.

Atletico could be bought at just 21 on Sporting Index’s Outright 100 Index back in August and have already made spread bettors a profit of 54 times their stake, but are the 10/3 outsiders. They might be unbeaten in Europe and are champions of Spain, but according to GoalDifference.com’s European Super League – a ranking tool that crunches data from the last 10 seasons and measures the underlying performance of teams – it’s first-place Real who are the top dogs on the continent with their city rivals only fifth in the table.

Having ended a 25-match winless run against their neighbours that stretched back 13 years with victory in last year’s Copa del Rey final, Atletico took four points in the two league meetings against Real this term.

However, they lost 5-0 on aggregate in the Spanish Cup this year and the fact remains they’ve only beaten them twice in the last 30 meetings.

The 10/11 might be skinny enough, as this could easily roll on into extra-time, but Atletico have been on the go for a long time with a far smaller squad than Real and the latter’s firepower will surely tell.

The half-time draw/full-time Real result is worth a bet at 4/1 with Paddy Power and the 2-1 correct score at 8/1 with the same firm also appeals.

Pointers…
Draw/Real in the HT/FT market at 4/1 with Paddy Power
2-1 Real Madrid correct score at 8/1 with Paddy Power