MADRID, June 1 (Reuters) - When Real Madrid line up to face Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday the competition’s meanest defence meeting an irresistible attack force.
The Italian side have conceded three goals in 12 games while Real have scored in 64 consecutive matches in all competitions, usurping the previous European record of 61 held by Bayern Munich.
Since their 0-0 draw with Manchester City in last season’s semi-final first leg, Madrid have not failed to find the back of the net in a match. For the first time ever Real went through an entire La Liga season scoring in every game they played, netting 105 times in total. Coach Zinedine Zidane has frequently shuffled his pack, varying between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 tactical formations.
With Gareth Bale’s return to fitness, Zidane must decide whether to restore the Welshman in his home city or to continue with Isco, who has excelled lately, in support of the free-scoring Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Captain Sergio Ramos admits the players are not sure which option Zidane will go with.
“Not even us lot know how we’re going to line up. We need to wait and see what happens but the good news is that we have a number of options.”
Juve shipped just 27 goals en-route to the Serie A title and veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been beaten just once in six knockout ties this season.
Their backline, comprising hardened trio Giorgi Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli has at times seemed impenetrable, shutting out Barcelona’s renowned strike force in the quarter-finals.
“We know they’re a side who defend well and concede very few goals, but we also know our weapons,” Ramos added. “We can cause harm at set pieces and we’ll do everything to get the first goal, be it a header from me or one from the boss!”
Ronaldo’s switch to a central forward position has coincided with the side’s goal-scoring run and the Portuguese has been in fine form recently.
His return of 13 goals in his last nine appearances, with back-to-back hat-tricks in the quarters and semis of the Champions League, means he will once again be key to his side’s hopes of becoming the first team to successfully defend the European Cup in its current format.
Ronaldo has faced Buffon four times and scored on each occasion.
”This final will be similar to the previous ones (against Atletico Madrid); it’s basically a coin flip. While Juventus certainly have a superb defence, there is always a weak spot, we need to find out how to attack it,” the Portuguese said. (Editing by Ed Osmond)