Champions League Final: Familiar territory for both Italy and Spain

19:45/Jun 03

Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid, sports betting writer Bradley Gibbs takes a look back at some of the previous Champions League finals to feature Spanish and Italian teams. 

The 97/98 Champions League final saw Italian champions Juventus face Real Madrid, who’d recently finished a surprisingly low 4th in La Liga. After all the usual hype, a packed Amsterdam Arena witnessed the pair play out something of a disappointing cat and mouse encounter which saw the Spaniards come out on top by a single goal courtesy of Yugoslavian born striker Predrag Mijatović. Fast forward 19 years and, this time at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, these two giants of the game meet again in Europe’s biggest game.

This may be the first time since 1998 that this particular pair have met in the Champions League final but, over the last few years, both Italian and Spanish teams have frequented the final match of UEFA’s elite competition.

Around the time of the re-branding of UEFA’s number one tournament from the ‘European Cup’ to the more imperious ‘Champions League’, Italy was making a name for itself as being home to some of Europe’s best teams with an Italian club registering an appearance in six consecutive finals between 1993 and 1998. In 1994, AC Milan beat Barcelona – a final in keeping with the Italian/Spanish theme – by a resounding 4-0 scoreline, while Juventus beat Ajax on penalties two years later, although that particular period proved to be somewhat fruitless with the trophy going to an Italian club in just two of those six finals.

It wasn’t just Italian clubs who made light work of reaching the final during the early years of the Champions League either. Spain was also well represented as at least one Spanish club contested five of the first ten finals. During the competition’s first decade, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia all appeared in the final, although Madrid were the only ones to stamp their mark on the competition winning each of the 97/98, 99/00 and 01/02 renewals.

It’s fair to say that during it’s first decade, as far as reaching the final goes, the Champions League was dominated by clubs from both Italy and Spain, and, in all fairness, the following decade wasn’t much different either. Between 2003 and 2013, Italy and Spain made several further appearances in the final with clubs from both countries lifting the famous trophy on a number of occasions during that time. The 02/03 final was an all-Italian affair that saw this year’s finalists Juventus lose out to AC Milan in a penalty shootout as an Old Trafford crowd looked on. Barcelona and Internazionale were also crowned as champions in the following years.

The Champions League has since moved into it’s third decade, and both Spain and Italy continue to tighten their grip on the competition. Since 2014, only Spanish and Italian clubs have made the final. 50% of the finals during that time have seen Spain and Italy go head-to-head as Barcelona beat Juventus back in 2015 while the latter are set to face Real Madrid in just a few days time.

UEFA’s flagship tournament has been known as the Champions League for 24 years now and only five finals during that time have been contested by two clubs from countries other than Spain and Italy, such has been the dominance of the Mediterranean pair. Having said that, this will be only the fourth time that Italy has actually met Spain in the final. AC Milan v Barcelona in 1994, Real Madrid v Juventus in 1998 and Barcelona v Juventus in 2015 being the previous three.

Although they’ve both often reached the final, when it comes to collecting the ultimate prize, the Spanish are very much out in front alone at this point in time. Since it’s inception back in 1992, Italian clubs have lifted the Champions League on five occasions, but such a total pales into insignificance when Spanish clubs have managed to get their hands on the trophy nine times. Currently, with either Barcelona or Real Madrid claiming each of the last three renewals, the competition is very much going through a period of Spanish dominance. It’s down to Juventus to put an end to this spell by avenging that 1998 defeat.

Looking back over previews winners, an interesting stat is that, in Champions League history (finals from 1993 onward), no country has won the competition four seasons on the bounce. Italian football was indeed represented in six consecutive finals, but back-to-back wins remained elusive. If Real Madrid are to have their name engraved on the trophy for a record 12th time on Saturday, then the iconic piece of silverware will be on it’s way to Spain for the fourth year in a row.

Another interesting stat, one that could form the basis of a betting angle ahead of the 2017 renewal, is the fact that only three of the previous 24 Champions League finals have seen less than two goals go in. Interestingly, all three of those were contested by at least one Italian club, two of which involved Juventus. As we all know, Juventus have traditionally been the archetypal pragmatists and the current crop aren’t much different. Dogged, defensively-minded, hard to beat, organised, are all good ways to describe Massimiliano Allegri’s men and such qualities could easily make for a low-scoring affair here.

Stats and more tips for Saturday’s Champions League final can be found here.

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Juventus v Real Madrid
03.06.2017 19:45 \B\S\T
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