FIFA Club World Cup, FIFA World Cup

  • Real Madrid and Juventus favourites to meet in Cardiff
  • Would be the sides’ 19th meeting in Europe’s premier club competition
  • Atleti and Monaco eye unprecedented semi-final comebacks

Comfortable first-leg semi-final winners against Atletico Madrid and Monaco, by 3-0 and 2-0 scorelines respectively, Real Madrid and Juventus are close to setting up a repeat of their 1997 UEFA Champions League final, which ended with Los Blancos winning the trophy for a seventh time.

Yet, despite having much to do to turn their ties around, neither Atletico nor Monaco are giving up hope. Taking inspiration from Barcelona’s comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16, they are aiming to do the same and stay in the race to represent Europe at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.

Juventus-Monaco (Juventus lead 2-0 on aggregate)

Juventus Stadium, Turin, 9 May

Gonzalo Higuain stole the limelight from Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao in the first leg at Stade Louis II, scoring his first goals in the away leg of a Champions League tie since making his tournament debut in 2007. The Argentinian’s brace has put La Vecchia Signora on the verge of a trip to Cardiff and their second final in three years, following defeat to Barcelona in Berlin in 2015.

Boasting the best defence in the competition, having conceded just two goals to date, I Bianconeri recorded a sixth consecutive clean sheet in Monaco thanks to another fine performance by Gianluigi Buffon. Mbappe, who was not yet born when Buffon made his FIFA World Cup™ debut with Italy, has nevertheless warned that the tie is far from over: “We know it’s difficult, but we’re going to do all we can to play a great game.”

Atletico Madrid-Real Madrid (Real lead 3-0 on aggregate)

Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid, 10 May

Los Blancos had conceded in every one of their previous home games in the Champions League this season, while Atleti had let in only five goals in ten matches in the competition, statistics that ultimately counted for little in the first leg at the Bernabeu.

In scoring a hat-trick to put his side in a commanding position, Cristiano Ronaldo took his career tally of goals in the competition to 103, three more than Atleti have managed in total. The Portuguese’s triple salvo allowed Zinedine Zidane’s men to plant one foot firmly in the final, though the French coach is taking nothing for granted: “We’ve still got a long way to go. We haven’t won anything yet and we’re not in Cardiff.”

No side has ever come from more than a goal down after the first leg of a Champions League semi-final, though Atletico midfielder Koke is not giving up hope that they can become the first club to do so: “We never give up and we always pick ourselves up after we’ve been knocked down. That’s football, and this tie is not over. Just ask PSG.”

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