Madrid’s ruthless road to Milan

Real Madrid’s face-off with City rivals Atletico in Saturday's Champions League offers Zinedine Zidane’s team a chance to win the competition they have steamrollered through in 2015-16.

Madrid’s form in Europe has been ruthless this season, brushing aside their rivals in the group stage, with a demonstration to the rest of Europe that they are desperate for an 11th European cup.

While their La Liga form has been excellent, particularly in 2016, the League shows no mercy for even the slightest slip in form, and they have been unable to replicate their dominant European form in Spain. The perfect illustration of this was back-to-back League defeats to Sevilla and Barcelona, sandwiched in between Champions League wins over Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s nine group goals laid the foundations for an unbeaten European run up to Christmas, including four in an 8-0 mauling of Malmo. Roma were then pushed aside 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16, with another two goals from their Portuguese talisman, alongside strikes from Jese Rodriguez and James Rodriguez, to set up an apparently-simple quarter-final with Wolfsburg.

However the Germans were anything but pushovers, and Madrid were caught cold at the Volkswagen Arena, losing 2-0 and returning home to stiff criticism. The Bernabeu club were slammed for their complacency, and their attitude and appetite was questioned in a number of quarters.

A response was needed in the second leg, and Ronaldo duly obliged by putting on his superhero cape and netting a hat-trick to secure qualification as Wolfsburg were blown away.

A semi-final draw against last-four novices Manchester City presented Madrid with a far-easier obstacle than their city rivals faced against Bayern Munich. City were eventually seen off by a slender 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu after a Ronaldo-less side failed to score in Manchester. Despite somewhat labouring past City, Real gave the impression that they were not really over exerting, and that if an extra gear was needed, it could certainly be found.

While Ronaldo’s 16 goals in the competition have been the standout feature of Madrid’s march to the final, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema too have played a significant role, and they will be vital in Milan.

The primary concern for Real ahead of the final is likely to be the lack of competition that they have faced so far this season. Their group was a formality, and only Wolfsburg gave them a fright in the knockout rounds,
from which they recovered impressively as City failed to live up to the occasion.

Atleti, on the other hand, have seen off both Barcelona and Bayern Munich en route to the final and have gained a few battle scars on the way.