UEFA Champions League final: Guide for beginners

Not seen any of the UEFA Champions League and coming late to the party? Keen to impress family and friends with unexpected knowledge? Have no fear – help is at hand.

A dragon and the UEFA Champions League trophy on the walls of Cardiff Castle
A dragon and the UEFA Champions League trophy on the walls of Cardiff Castle ©Getty Images

What's happening?

The UEFA Champions League final, of course. European powerhouses Juventus and Real Madrid – the holders are looking to become the first team ever to retain the title – are meeting at the National Stadium of Wales in the showpiece event of the European football calendar.

What should I expect?

Grizzled defence versus free-flowing attack, so some would have you believe. That's a boiled-down version, certainly, but there's no arguing with the stats – this is the competition's most miserly back line against its most prolific forward line. However things do pan out, this is an occasion dripping in prestige – two sets of footballing royalty wrestling for one crown.

Who should I watch out for?

Ronaldo's 100% record against Buffon
Ronaldo's 100% record against Buffon

Where to start? This is a who's who of superstars, but none are bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo. The 32-year-old is eyeing a fourth UEFA Champions League title – a third in four seasons – and needs just one goal to draw level with Lionel Messi to top score in the competition for the fifth season in a row. To do so, he'll have to find his way past Gianluigi Buffon, no less. The Bianconeri's very own Benjamin Button is looking to lift the trophy for the first time; if he does, aged 39, he'll surpass Paolo Maldini as the competition's oldest ever winner.

What time does it all kick-off?

Kick-off is Saturday at 20:45CEST (11:45 Los Angeles, 14:45 New York, 15:45 Sao Paulo, 19:45 in Cardiff/Lagos; Thursday 00:15 New Dehli, 02:45 Manila, 04:45 Sydney).

Is it decided on the night?

It will be. If it's level after 90 minutes then there will be extra time (15 minutes each way) and then, if it's still all-square, there will be penalties. Now, UEFA is this summer trialling a new shoot-out format but any spot kicks here will take the traditional route: coin toss to decide who goes first and then take it in turns.

What prize is on offer?

Classic final moments
Classic final moments

In essence, a trophy hastily completed by a Swiss man in 1967 because he had a strict deadline: his impending marriage and honeymoon to Los Angeles. It is affectionately known as Ol' Big Ears, a reference to the fact that, unlike the hard-to-handle (i.e. it's got no handles) UEFA Europa League trophy, it's no problem carrying it around. The winners will receive it on the pitch and also bag a UEFA Super Cup date with Manchester United on 8 August.

Facts to casually slip into conversation

  • Cristiano Ronaldo has 103 UEFA Champions League goals to his name, which means he has outscored all but 22 whole clubs in the competition's 25-season history.

  • It pays to come early to the party: In previous UEFA Champions League finals, 17 of the 23 teams that scored first went on to lift the trophy.

This is a bit of a treasure trove if you're after more.

Top