Poised, determined and clinical are words that could describe the figure captured in a famous photograph inside Real Madrid CF's club museum. The snapshot is of Zinédine Zidane, taken a fraction before he volleyed his team towards a ninth European Cup in a final that took place 12 years ago. Displaying similar qualities this season to those of the former France great, Madrid's players will now be keen to elevate their own status to legendary, having at last bridged that UEFA Champions League final gap.
Story of the season
Of Madrid's Group B opponents – Galatasaray AŞ, FC København and Juventus – it was Carlo Ancelotti's former side who would provide the sternest test to Los Blancos' aims of advancing as section winners. However, the Italian giants' 2-2 draw in Turin against the nine-time champions proved the only blip in an otherwise perfect group stage campaign.
Finishing nine points ahead of their nearest rivals with a record-equalling 20 goals, the Liga team began a knockout phase that would take in the Bundesliga's best. FC Schalke 04 were dispatched before last season's finalists, Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München, suffered a similar fate. Jürgen Klopp's side handed Madrid their only defeat in the competition during a rare off night at the BVB Stadion Dortmund.
P12 W9 L3
Last 2001/02 v Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Hampden Park, Glasgow)
Record against final opponents
El Derbi Madrileño may be a regular feature in Spain's domestic season, but these teams have met just once before in continental competition: the 1958/59 European Cup semi-final. A Ferenc Puskás penalty edged Madrid 2-1 ahead in the first leg while Enrique Collar's winning strike for Club Atlético de Madrid in the return meant a play-off would decide who advanced to the final. Puskás's 42nd-minute effort proved all-important for the eventual champions in Zaragoza after Alfredo Di Stéfano’s opener was cancelled out by Collar.
Beaten semi-finalists in the three previous campaigns, Madrid travelled to Germany to banish their 'bestia negra' – or bête noir – FC Bayern München in the last four. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg thanks to Karim Benzema's goal, the Bavarian giants boasted a formidable record of W8 D1 L0 in home encounters against the Spanish side. However, the defending champions – coached by Madrid bugbear Josep Guardiola – were swept aside 4-0 in a one-sided second leg.
"This team never ceases to surprise me. I am so happy because the players and everyone at the club has worked so hard for this. We are going to compete in this final and will look to win it."
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti
Having surpassed the UEFA Champions League group stage goalscoring record, Cristiano Ronaldo went on to set a new European Cup best in a single season, his double at the Fußball Arena München taking his tally to 16 for the campaign.
Told by coach Ancelotti that he would be the club's second-choice goalkeeper to Diego López in the Liga, Iker Casillas was offered the incentive of being No1 for Madrid's UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey challenges. Spain's most-capped player has made several crucial saves in the Merengues' European run, and should feature in his 22nd Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League encounter of the season in Lisbon.
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