Hot topic: UEFA Champions League final

UEFA.com's team of reporters on the ground in Milan discuss the Real Madrid-Atlético final in detail and compare predictions – with a majority verdict in favour of Atleti!

Waiting patiently in line: is this Atlético's year?
Waiting patiently in line: is this Atlético's year? ©AFP/Getty Images

Andy James (@UEFAcomAndyJ): Hello everyone and welcome to the UEFA Champions League final edition of the 'Hot Topic', a new UEFA.com feature which seemed to go down a storm at the UEFA Europa League final. We've got Andrew Haslam, our lead English reporter in Milan, along with local lad Paolo Menicucci, Guillermo Honrubia, who's followed Atlético all season and Joe Walker, our man in Madrid. Let's start with you, Andrew; you've been in Milan since yesterday. What's the vibe?

Andrew Haslam (@UEFAcomAndrewH): Stadio San Siro is a bit out from the city centre, but there's a hive of activity around our hotel – which is where Atlético are staying – and there's plenty of media in attendance round the stadium today. The locals appear to be thoroughly enjoying having the first final here in 15 years, there's plenty of coverage in the Italian media and lots of fans in and around the ground already.

©Getty Images

Andy: I think you've quite enjoyed walking out to a sea of paparazzi, Andrew. Paolo, it's been absolutely boiling here in Milan. Perfect weather for a UEFA Champions League final. The stadium is ready to roll and there's also plenty going on where you are down by the Duomo, where the Champions Festival is in full swing. What's the craic?

Paolo Menicucci (@UEFAcomPaoloM): The atmosphere here is brilliant. There's glorious sunshine and the streets in the city centre are already packed with fans and people just curious to walk around the festival. Everybody is enjoying the opportunity to take funny photos: for example I did one with the Madrid squad putting my face instead of Marcelo's. My face and his hair? The result wasn't great, I can tell you!

Andy: I can well imagine! What's the build-up been like here? Have you sensed the anticipation in Milan?

Paolo: Yes, as Andrew said, people in Milan haven't seen a UEFA Champions League final for 15 years, and there was no European football at all this year with AC Milan and Inter [seven and three wins in the competition respectively] both out of UEFA competition. However, the fans have had a great opportunity to see their old heroes in the Ultimate Champions game at the Castello Sforzesco. What a lineup that was!

Andy: That's a nice little Segway, or Vespa, into the teams. Milan and Inter are watching from the sidelines as another of Europe's great city rivalries takes centre stage. Joe – you've followed both sides all the way to the final. Who's going to win?

Highlights of the 2014 final
Highlights of the 2014 final

Joe Walker (@UEFAcomJoeW): Ha! Now there's the million-dollar question. I think this time there's an expectation surrounding Atlético. In 2014 they were a surprise package as they got to the final. They have lost only one of the past ten Madrid derbies; OK, that one loss came in this competition last season, but this term they've knocked out Barcelona and Bayern. When you look at it like that, you have to say they might be slight favourites, despite everyone connected with the club insisting they're not. I fancy them to nick a 1-0 victory.

Andy: Guillermo, you've been reporting on Atleti for our Spanish website for the past three seasons. How much have they improved since losing the final two years ago? Will that have an impact on this game?

Guille Honrubia (@UEFAcomGuilleH): Without doubt this Atlético side is stronger than the 2014 one. Despite having a much younger squad, they have more options and above all they're in much better physical condition. The players who were there in Lisbon are now more experienced and have helped teach Diego Simeone's competitive spirit to the newer arrivals. Also, just a week before Lisbon, Atleti played another 'final' against Barcelona to decide who would win the league. This time they've had two weeks to prepare, which could be key.

Andy: They'll know Madrid better than anyone but stifling the Merengues' attack is never going to be easy. As Joe mentioned earlier, though, Atlético managed to thwart the likes of Barcelona and Bayern en route to the final. Andrew, you were at Simeone's pre-match press conference. What mood was he in and how is he approaching the game?

Simeone: On Real Madrid's set-piece threat
Simeone: On Real Madrid's set-piece threat

Andrew: He's an interesting figure. He's certainly very intense and demanding of his players, but I thought he was quite relaxed in his presser. He clearly wanted to make a point about Casemiro; he singled him out four or five times and described him as "Madrid's key player, without a doubt". That's quite a statement about a player who only really nailed down a regular starting spot in March. I got the impression Simeone has a very clear vision of how he expects the game to go.

Joe: It's very odd how Casemiro, who couldn't buy a game under Zinédine Zidane for his first two months in the post, is now an indispensable member of the side, but that's how it has been with the Brazilian. He gives Madrid balance and crucially frees up Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos to play their passing game. I wouldn't be surprised to see Koke or Saúl given a job of getting right in Casemiro's face and pressing him in order to force mistakes and nullify him.

Andy: No mention of Cristiano Ronaldo? The Portuguese superstar limped out of training during the week. What's the latest there?

©Getty Images

Joe: There were hearts in mouths for a moment or two as he was sandwiched between Dani Carvajal and Kiko Casilla before hobbling off on Tuesday. I was told by a local journalist it was his third successive incomplete training session, so read into that what you will. Personally I don't see any way the No7 won't start; he himself said it was "just a knock" and that he would be 100% fit. He picked up a thigh problem last month and there is always a danger it could flare up again, but even a half-fit Ronaldo is one of Europe's most deadly marksmen.

Andy: It wouldn't be the same without him, just like this chat wouldn't be right without ending with a prediction from each of you.

Joe: I can't change now: 1-0 to Atlético. Fernando Torres!

Paolo: I go for Atlético as well and even more clearly ... 3-1 with Saúl man of the match, scoring twice. Ronaldo will get the consolation goal, so my fantasy football team will be fine.

Andrew: As ever, my fantasy football rivalry with Paolo is the most important thing. That said, I fancy Atlético too. They look properly focused and I think they'll win 2-1, although I think the first goal is vital and whoever scores that I expect to win.

Ramos: Zidane gets the best out us
Ramos: Zidane gets the best out us

Guille: Atlético go into the match in as good a position as they've ever been, but Real Madrid are a side built for winning finals, and I think they will do that: 2-1.

Andy: So a 3-1 landslide for Atlético amongst the hot topic honchos. Not even my consolation vote for Real Madrid can even things out so it looks like Ol' Big Ears will be heading to the red half of Madrid! But what do we know? Let us know who you think will win the UEFA Champions League by posting your comments below, and get in touch with us on Twitter using #UCLfinal. Thanks to Joe, Guille, Paolo and Andrew. Enjoy the game!

Top