European giants to contest UCL Final
Cardiff 2017
10 May 2017

European giants to contest UCL Final

The #Cardiff2017 UEFA Champions League final will be contested between Italian giants Juventus and current trophy holders Real Madrid in a mouthwatering tie to decide who will be crowned champions of Europe.

The Italian giants claimed their place in the showpiece final on Tuesday evening with a 2-1 win over Monaco to confirm a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory.

Brazilian defender Dani Alves grabbed the goal of the game with a superb volley just before the break after Mario Mandzukic had extended their lead from the 1st leg.

Monaco replied in the second half through the talented teenager Kylian Mbappe, but it was too little too late for Leonardo Jardim's impressive outfit as Juventus held on for the win.

The UEFA Champions League is one trophy that has so far surprisingly evaded veteran Juventus goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon, and at the age of 39 he will be desperate to finally avenge the pain of two previous final defeats.

Buffon is part of an impressive Juventus defence that went almost 700 minutes without conceding a goal until Mbappe's consolation, and will again need to be at their best against the talented attack of Real Madrid in the final. 

There are also a couple of Welsh connections to make Juve's visit to Cardiff all the more special, as two of Wales' most famous strikers represented the club during the height of their respective playing careers.

The great John Charles arrived in Turin in 1957, and went on to score over 100 goals for the club during a successful five year period.

Charles was known as Il Gigante Buono (The Gentle Giant) while playing for Juventus and is considered one of Britain's best foreign exports to this day.

Meanwhile, Ian Rush joined Juventus in 1986, and spent two seasons in Italy before returning to Liverpool.

As the UEFA Champions League 2017 final ambassador, Rush will be delighted to welcome his former club to the capital next month after recently bringing the trophy to Wales following the semi-final draw.

The action continued on Wednesday as holders Real Madrid arrived at the Vicente Calderon for the last ever European match at the home of their city rivals Atletico.

A hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo had gifted Zinedine Zidane's side a 3-0 advantage, but there was early drama as goals from Saul Niguez and a penalty from Antoine Griezmann within the opening 16 minutes offered Atletico the perfect start.

Real Madrid eventually found their rhythm and settled into the match as tensions flared, and a goal from Isco after an incredible run Karim Benzema just before the break provided the crucial away goal.

Atletico subsequently needed another three goals to progress to the final at the expense of the holders, and while Diego Simeone's side remained committed to making it happen, they eventually run out of time as Real Madrid confirmed their place.

As with Juventus, Real Madrid also boast their own Welsh connections, and it will now be a race against time for Wales star Gareth Bale to return from injury ahead of the final.

Having already lifted the trophy twice since arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2013, it would be a special moment for Bale to claim a third winners' medals in his home town of Cardiff.

However, the Welsh connections started back in 1989 when John Toshack was appointed as Real Madrid manager in the first of two spells in charge of the Spanish giants.

Toshack returned to the club for a second time a decade later, and is best remembered as the manager who handed legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas his senior debut for the club as a raw teenager.

Casillas then went on to have a glittering career, captaining both the club and the Spanish national team to unprecedented success during the course of his 16-year career with Los Blancos.

It was fitting that the Atletico Madrid would claim victory over their rivals in the final European match at the Vicente Calderon, but it is Real Madrid that will meet Juventus at the National Stadium in Cardiff on 3rd June.

Both finalists have different strengths and weaknesses, but both are deserving of their place in the #Cardiff2017 final after incredible respective campaigns.

It promises to be a match worthy of the occasion as these two iconic clubs, steeped in European history and tradition, compete for the biggest prize of all in the capital city of Wales. 

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