Karim Benzema – A Misunderstood Genius

Karim Mostafa Benzema is arguably one of the most gifted footballers of his generation, I’d even go as far as to say he’s been a top ten talent of the past decade but it doesn’t go without saying he’s had a few challenges on the way and can be viewed as a divisive figure especially in his home nation of France.

The Lyon born striker made his debut in the 2004-05 season which led to sporadic appearances in his next two seasons as Lyon won 3 major titles within that period of time. It wasn’t until the 2007-08 season in which Benzema got the chance to become a starter, having a breakthrough campaign scoring 30 goals in all competitions and leading Lyon to their seventh straight title. He was awarded the golden boot as the leagues top scorer, named Ligue 1 player of the year and listed in the organization’s team of the year. After one more successful season Real Madrid finally came calling and he made a switch to the Spanish capital on a six year contract worth a transfer fee of over $50 million.

Life in Madrid did not get off to the best start as he had to play second fiddle to Gonzalo Higuain who was preferred to start up front by both Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho respectively. Added to this, there were a lot of questions asked of him such as his discipline issues and his lack of commitment to fitness regimes. It was not until a meeting between Benzema and Mourinho ahead of the 2011-12 season occurred that a mutual respect was formed between both. Jose noted that Benzema worked on his game and physique during the off season which ultimately secured him the nod ahead of Higuain, a move that yielded tremendous results as Benzema scored a total of 32 goals; his most prolific year in a Real Madrid shirt to date.

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Fast forward to the present day and Benzema still commands that first team striker role  for Real Madrid seeing of all his would be challengers. Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata, Emmanuel Adebayor and Javier Hernandez, as well as several academy prospects have gotten the short end of the stick due to under performances or just being unable to raise their game to a level adequate enough to displace the Frenchman from his number 9 birth. It’s a testament to his immense ability that he was able to keep such talents at bay but what makes it more impressive is the fact that he has done so over a span of five different managers; all whom have had very different philosophies and tactics.

His ability to link up play, drop into a number ten role to drag defenders out leaving space for wide players to run into and the killer instincts of a lethal finisher sets him apart from most strikers in the world as of this moment. This is what made his combination with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale so devastating. The trio literally had defenders quaking in their boots. The famous BBC put teams in the Champions League to the sword on a regular basis and Benzema was frequently the man doing what needed to be done to make this front three tick. All this helped Real Madrid to an amazing fourteen major trophy wins (including four Champions League titles) in five short years.

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Although blessed with all the brilliance and ability, there does seems to be a mischievous side to him as well. Whether it’s making questionable comments in regards to the national team on different occasions or sex related scandals, Benzema seems to be caught out on more than a few occasions. As early as 2006, he drew criticism when he cited the reasons why he selected France was purely sporting and that his true heart lay with his parents native country of Algeria. On top of this, the fact that he never sang the national anthem before any France international matches hardly did anything to win him support especially with the often critical media. Worse still was the 2010 sex scandal involving an underaged prostitute and three other national team players (Franck Ribéry, Sidney Govou and Hatem Ben Arfa). He was questioned by Paris police and indicted on the charge of “solicitation of a minor prostitute”. The case did go to trail with the first hearing held in June 2013, however the charges against him were dropped in January 2014 due to lack of sufficient evidence that he knew the prostitute was underaged.

You would think going through this ordeal would discourage Benzema from being in the headlines for the wrong reasons but no. Unfortunately his next one would subsequently cost him a chance to win a World Cup medal as he was suspended provisionally from the French national team in 2015 due to his alleged involvement in the blackmailing of fellow french international player Mathieu Valbuena. It’s only fair to mention that he was acquitted of all charges and although he’s had a problematic relationship with the national team, it’s a completely different story for Los Blancos. Benzema is a leader both on and off the pitch, also he’s one of only three players who were in the 2010 squad that still remains at the club ten years later.

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Where there’s been drama and scandal with the national team there’s been goals, assists and trophies galore for Benzema and Real Madrid. He’s has had dips in form, particularly a certain 2 year period plagued with injuries which affected his goal scoring resulting in the nickname “Donezema” but he has always been backed fully by both his coach Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. And Benzema has rewarded their faith in kind especially following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo; Benzema has been a man reborn.

Even amidst all the big money transfers Benzema is still the player the team turns to for goals. His resurgence is why the Los Blancos are en route to yet another title, toppling King Leo’s side to the league title. He may be head strong, disappointing at times and reckless, but for all who have seen him play one thing that can never be denied is that Karim Benzema on the field is a true maestro.

Post by Ani Chukwuebuka. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram

The Evolution of Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has been a household name for the best part of 15 years. Introducing himself as a slender winger with a penchant for the unexpected. Raw pace, step overs and flicks were his trademark along with his patented ‘Ronaldo Chop’. We still get flashes from time to time, but not the same frequency. This has been the key to his longevity. Over the years, he has adapted his game in order to stay effective and decisive at the right time. I will detail those changes and the reason, in my opinion, why they were made.

The first real evolution we saw in Ronaldo came after the 2006 World Cup. He came back from a very public falling out with Wayne Rooney. He began adding goals to his game. 17 league goals and 15 assists and 23 goals and 20 assists in all competitions was a massive increase on the previous season (12 goals and 9 assists all comps). The next season was a sign of things to come. His first 40+ goal season and first 30+ league goal season, at 23 years old. Rene Meulensteen, then United coach, instilled into him the idea that a goal was a goal, no matter how it looked. His desire to score the ‘perfect’ or ‘beautiful’ goal diminished and the more cliche ‘number 9’ goal became instinctive. This advice would follow Ronaldo and serve him well later in his career.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Bolton Wanderers - Old Trafford

After earning a deserved move to Real Madrid, the progression of his playmaking and goal scoring culminated in what was, what I believe, peak Cristiano Ronaldo in the 11/12 season. In his first two seasons he recorded 33 goals and 12 assists in 35 games and then a career-high 53 goals and 18 assists in 54 games. All that built up to 11/12 where Ronaldo was virtually unstoppable. Lighting pace, ridiculous long shots, otherworldly aerial ability as well as the ability to create for team mates. He was the complete attacker. 60 goals and 15 assists in 55 games on the way to a league title as well as the goal which practically sealed it at the Nou Camp. A truly monstrous season. His first three seasons at Los Blancos brought 146 goals and 45 assists in 144 games.

After 11/12 I feel Ronaldo physically peaked. The two seasons after were slightly less dynamic in terms of lung-busting runs down the left wing, thought still there, he started to focus his area of influence closer to the goal. Wear and tear on his body as well as reoccurring knee issues meant he had to manage his bursts. His productivity didn’t suffer though, 55 goals and 13 assists in 55 games in 12/13 and 51 goals and 17 assists in 47 games in 13/14 including a new record 17 champions league goals in a season. Slightly down on 11/12, but that made it 4 consecutive 50+ goal seasons in a row – a feat not even Messi could manage.

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This brings me nicely onto his final evolution. One I like to call, Second Striker Cristiano. This evolution began in Ancelotti’s first season as he experimented with an asymmetrical 433 formation where, out of possession, Ronaldo would stay up with Benzema to make a front 2 and Bale would drop to make a 4 across midfield with Di Maria/Isco on the left. This took the defensive responsibility from Ronaldo keeping him high to save energy as he aged, but most importantly, finish moves. 14/15 was the real catalyst of this and proved to be his most productive season of his career (61 goals and 22 assists in 54 games) – a lot of them being one touch finishes in the box. Clever movement and deadly precision honed after years of scoring goals made the transition seamless and birthed a new animal at the age of 30. One who lived and breathed goals and clutch moments.

The subsequent seasons, like previously, were used for adaptation. Despite Benitez’s best efforts and knee injuries Ronaldo still managed 51 goals and 15 assists in 48 matches and a second Champions League in three years in 15/16. Although performance wise it was and still remains his worst season, to me. However, it did set the precedent for the level of violation the champions league and those in it were about to receive.

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Zidane’s last two seasons of his first Madrid spell were considered a huge success. A league title and retaining the Champions League in the first and repeating the feat the season after was down to three factors, managing egos, luck and Cristiano. By now Zidane favoured variations of a 442 (either flat or in a diamond) focusing on getting the ball wide to full backs to cross into the box for Ronaldo to finish. The now 32 year old scored was a penalty box bully. Headers, penalties and one touch finishes were his weapon of choice and defences were terrified. 42 goals and 11 assists in 48 games in the first, along with a record 10 knock out stage goals and back to back hat-tricks against Bayern and Atletico. Not bad for an old man. The next season was a mixture of spectacular and disappointment. 44 goals and 8 assists in 44 games as well as the records of scoring in every single champions league group game, most consecutive champions league games scored in (11) and a run of 22 goals in 12 games from January to March in all comps, was enough for Ronaldo to bow out of Real Madrid a legend, in my opinion, their best ever player and their all time scorer with 450 goals and 131 assists in 438 games.

Ronaldo adapted to the demands of his team and later body in a bid to maintain the levels he and his team expected of him. Over 600 club goals later and countless honours and he is still going at the age of 34. Surely he can’t do it again?

Written by David Ngono. Follow him now on Twitter and Instagram

Where Next For Little Pea As Madrid’s Buying Deadline Passes

Where next for Little Pea? (Image from PA)It was meant to be his dream move but has slowly turned into a nightmare. Despite a recent burst in form that has seen him net four times in the last six appearances, Real Madrid will not be taking out their option to buy Javier Hernandez outright from Manchester United. Deemed surplus to requirements by new United manager Louis Van Gaal, Hernandez was offered to several clubs before Real Madrid swooped in with a season long loan to buy deal. Joining the likes of Bale, Ronaldo and Rodriguez at the Bernabeu was too good an opportunity for the diminutive Mexican striker, known in his homeland simply as Little Pea. But Hernandez has struggled to force his way into Ancelotti’s starting eleven on a regular basis especially with French striker Karim Benzema in superb early season form. But a recent knee injury followed by a sprained ankle has kept Benzema out of action over the past month handing Hernandez his chance. Despite taking it well and scoring some vital goals as Real Madrid continue to chase trophies both at home and abroad, Madrid have decided at this stage not to make a bid for Hernandez letting Manchester United’s imposed Thursday deadline for their option to buy Hernandez pass without action.

Hernandez signed for Manchester United in 2010 after impressing their scouts who watched him star for Guadalajara in Liga MX. He arrived at Old Trafford for a fee of € 7.5M and almost immediately became a fan favourite with his energy and enthusiasm for the game and more importantly his goals. His style of play and the tendency by Sir Alex Ferguson to use Hernandez from the bench sparked obvious comparisons to former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But unlike the Norwegian, Hernandez did manage to force his way into the starting line up on a more regular basis as the goals flew in. But with the departure of his mentor Ferguson, Hernandez slipped down the pecking order and with the arrival of the likes of Robin Van Persie and this season Colombian hotshot Radamel Falcao, Hernandez knew his playing time would be limited at United. A loan move to Real was agreed with the belief that he could win a permanent move but that has not materialized as yet so Hernandez will likely have to reassess his career at the end of the season and decided where he wants to play next.

There won’t be a shortage of potential suitors with clubs in England, Italy, Spain and Germany expressing an interest in the Mexican international striker. He has already rejected a reported offer to move to MLS side Orlando City, preferring instead to stay in Europe. If he decides to return to England, several clubs like Newcastle, Southampton and West Ham are options with the trio heavily linked to the player. Serie A sides Lazio and AC Milan have also expressed an interest, whilst German side Wolfsburg are also rumoured to be monitoring the situation closely as they look to strengthen their squad after an impressive Bundesliga title push this year. His recent form in Spain has sparked interest from other sides in the Primera Division such as Seville and Atletico Madrid. He may end up remaining in Spain with his current suitors, Real Madrid who still have not formally closed the door on a full time move, despite not activating their first option as part of the loan agreement. They may however move for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, currently on loan at Manchester United who like Hernandez has been unable to hold down a first team place.  If former Atletico Madrid striker Falcao is to move back to the Spanish capital with Real, the door could be reopened for Hernandez to have another chance at United however it looks like a slim chance given that Van Gaal is reportedly chasing PSV’s Memphis Depay and is considering transforming winger Adnan Januzaj into a striker.

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Can Anyone Stop Real Madrid?

Real Madrid clinched the first trophy of the season (Image from Getty)

Sevilla’s run to the Europa League title last year was anything but pretty but a combination of perseverance and teamwork got them over the line in the end. They claimed the trophy with a penalty shoot out win over Portuguese side Benfica to earn their third Europa league title in 8 years making them one of the most successful teams in the tournaments history. Going into yesterday’s European Super Cup Final game in Cardiff, Sevilla were optimistic about adding another piece of European silverware to their trophy cabinet. However standing in their way was an all star cast in the form of Real Madrid. The current European champions have strengthened their already impressive lineup this summer with World Cup stars Toni Kroos, Keylar Navas and James Rodriguez arriving at the club. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale also in their ranks, manager Carlo Ancelotti is building what will be a team that will strike fear into many. Few column inches have been spared as journalists wax lyrically about the new Galacticos and what could well be a new era of domination for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo celebrates with Rodriguez after giving Real the lead  (Image from Getty)

Ronaldo celebrates with Rodriguez after giving Real the lead
(Image from Getty)

Yesterday Sevilla became the first team to experience this new look Madrid side on a competitive level and the world watched on with interest too. The question on everyone’s lips was simple: Could Real live up to the hype and dominate European football like they did in the late 90’s/early 2000’s? On the basis of the final yesterday, the answer looks to be yes with the star studded line up playing fast paced flowing football. With Cristanio Ronaldo and local boy Gareth Bale, returning to Wales with Real for the first time since his world record £85.3million move from Tottenham last summer, running the wings and controlling the play, Madrid took control of the game early on. New boy Toni Kroos looked comfortable in central midfield alongside Croat Luka Modric and helped with the tempo of the game, spreading the ball wide to Madrid’s two wingers and giving supply to fellow arrival James Rodriguez. The Colombian youngster, who picked up the golden boot at the World Cup, operated in an attacking midfield role just behind lone striker Karim Benzema and offered flashes of what we can expect to see from him this season. It’s hard to imagine Madrid improving but if they finally land Radamel Falcao from Monaco after a long hard summer of chasing the Colombian striker, Madrid will have the final piece to their puzzle in their quest to build the new Galacticos.

Ronaldo and Bale enjoy the fruits of their labor  (Image from Getty)

Ronaldo and Bale enjoy the fruits of their labor
(Image from Getty)

In the end two strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo settled the game and put Real Madrid on the path towards a potential haul of six trophies. There is a long way to go and Real will face several bumps along the way however with a squad like this, it’s hard to see anyone beating Madrid this season in any competition. Sevilla proving a solid test for Madrid and came close on a few occasions to snatching victory in the face of defeat but were unable to convert their chances. Sevilla have enough about them to challenge next season but in a league that has seen both Real Madrid and Barcelona spend over £100 million in transfers this summer, their chances will be limited.

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Real Madrid To Rebuild Los Galacticos With Summer Move For Falcao

Falcao looks set to move to Real Madrid (Image from Getty)

It’s been nearly ten years since the breakup of Los Galacticos, Real Madrid’s star studded team but now President Florentino Perez wants to rebuild it with a haul of impressive summer signings. The current Champions League winners already boast the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas but Perez now has his sights firmly set on Colombian power striker, Radamel Falcao. Discussions between Falcao’s current club Monaco and Real Madrid have already begun according to reports surfacing from Spanish paper AS last weekend. It is believed that a fee for the player has been agreed with Falcao due to meet with Madrid officials soon to discuss personal terms. The Colombian striker missed out on this year’s World Cup after failing to recover from a cruciate ligament injury sustained in January but has been in Brazil at each of his country’s games cheering them on.

Rebuilding Los Galacticos?  (Image from Real Madrid)

Rebuilding Los Galacticos?
(Image from Real Madrid)

The move to Madrid may surprise a few people especially in Monaco as it is only been a year since his €60 million transfer to the French club from Atletico Madrid. But the truth is that Falcao has failed to settle in the tiny principality and has been eyeing a move since late December. Falcao’s next move was anticipated to be towards England with Chelsea and Manchester City both keen on the 28 year old but the pull of a return to Madrid, albeit with the white half of the city, is proving too strong for Falcao to ignore. How exactly his old club, Atletico will react to the news of their former star player joining their biggest rivals will go down is hard to say. Falcao, like Torres before him, achieved hero status at Los Rojiblancos during his time there, so for the fans of the new La Liga Champions the move would be seen as a slap in the face. Atletico will likely join the race and try to persuade Falcao to return to them instead but will be unable to compete against the financial muscle of Real.

Suarez Scored Twice To Knock England Out Of The World Cup  (Image from Getty)

Suarez Scored Twice To Knock England Out Of The World Cup
(Image from Getty)

What the move means for current Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is unknown with the French striker still in contract negotiations heading into the World Cup. He could be allowed to leave with the English Premiership his most likely destination although several other clubs, including Monaco may attempt to sign him. Benzema’s stay at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way but under new coach Carlo Ancelotti, Benzema has found consistency and has been in good form. He helped Real Madrid win its 10th European title in May with a 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid in the Champions league Final. This good form has continued into the World Cup with the front man already picking up three goals in the group stages. The race for his signature will heat up if he is shown the door at Real Madrid. Doubts too about what this means for a supposed summer transfer move for Liverpool and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez. The man who put England to the sword during Uruguay’s 2-1 victory has been vocal in saying that he is happy at Liverpool but several sources are now reporting that he has told close friends and colleagues about his desire to move to Spain, to either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Real appeared to be the favourite but the move for Falcao may put Barcelona in the driving seat unless Ancelotti believes he can make space in his team for both Falcao and Suarez. If he can, Madrid’s front line of Falcao, Suarez, Bale and Ronaldo will be one of the most terrifying in the game. But Barcelona are unlikely to let this happen with Suarez elevated to No.1 target in new manager Luis Enrique’s plans. Either way, La Liga looks to benefit this summer if these transfers go through.

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Messi Shines As Spain Implodes

Messi strikes to put Argentina in the driving seat (Image from AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)It was always going to be an explosive start but no one could have predicted this. In the opening 11 matches, we have seen 37 goals, 2 red cards, one use of the goal line technology and several uses of the new disappearing foam at free kicks. Added into this, the world’s best players have shown up with Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Arjen Robben, Mario Balotelli and Karim Benzema all getting on the score sheets in spectacular fashion. At present Brazil, Holland, France and Colombia all look like potential candidates for eventual winner but following yesterdays games they have a new threat to be worried about.

Balotelli breaks English Hearts  (Image from pa)

Balotelli breaks English Hearts
(Image from pa)

Argentina made their case for being considered as serious contenders with a 2-1 win over world cup newbie’s Bosnia. With the weight of an entire nation resting on the shoulders of Barcelona star Lionel Messi, the diminutive forward finally started to live up to expectations by scoring a quite stunning solo effort. Picking the ball up at the half way line, Messi drove forward with pace before playing a slick one two with Gonzalo Higuain. After retrieving the ball, Messi stepped up a gear leaving his shadow of the day Muhamed Besic and defender Ermin Bicakcic in his wake before cooling curling the ball past Amir Begovic in goal and in to the net off of the post. Although Argentina did concede a late goal, they never looked like letting Bosnia back into the match. Messi looks ready to finally show the world that he is the greatest player to have ever played the game by doing the one thing that has escaped him to date- lifting the World Cup. This is probably Messi’s best chance of winning it given the team he is playing in and the way they played against Bosnia. On the wing, Angel Di Maria looked unmarkable whilst upfront Sergio Aguero and Gonazlo Higuain were unlucky not to end up on the score sheet. Even at the back, an area identified as a potential problem by many, Argentina looked strong with Sergio Romero impressing despite limited playing time this season for Monaco. Argentina could go all the way and finally give Messi that last trophy that he has been craving.

Safe Hands - Romero  (Image from AFP)

Safe Hands – Romero
(Image from AFP)

Spain on the other hand looked less like champions and more like early exiters after a humiliating 5-1 thrashing by Holland in their opening game. In the repeat of the 2010 World Cup final game, Spain started strongly earning a penalty that was converted by Xavi Alonso with ease. But after Robin Van Persie scored a quite spectacular diving header equalizer and Arjen Robben scored with a cool finish to put Holland into the lead, Spain’s confidence disappeared. Their lack of confidence stemmed from the ineffectual performance of Iker Casillas in goal. Once the rock in which the Spanish side was built on, Casillas lack of game time this season for Real Madrid started to show as he helplessly flapped at crosses and punched rather than grabbed shots. His performance was so bad that head coach Del Bosque was considering dropping him for their next game against Chile until replacement David De Gea pulled out with a leg injury. He could still be dropped with third choice Pepe Reina an option. Either way Casillas will know that he needs to improve and will not be able to live on past glories any longer. Spain now faces a rampant Chile side who many are calling the underdogs of this tournament. Defeat would spell an early exit for Spain and surely end the international career of Casillas.

Casillas concedes his performance was unacceptable  (Image from Getty)

Casillas concedes his performance was unacceptable
(Image from Getty)

Another team fearful of an early exit is England who suffered a 2-1 defeat on Saturday at the hands of Italy. The Andrea Pirlo inspired Italian side took the lead through a wonderful 25 yard strike by Claudio Marchisio before Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney combined to set up Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge for a well executed equalizer. England erupted in celebration with the bench jumping from its seats to join in only for head physio Gary Lewen to comically slip on a water bottle and dislocate his right ankle and is now been forced out of the World Cup. But five minutes after the restart, Antonio Candreva doubled back on a run against Leighton Baines to deliver a perfect cross for Mario Balotelli to head Italy back into the lead. England looked shell-shocked and despite throwing on several creative players like Jack Wilshire, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, they were unable to get back into the game and now face Uruguay in a must win game. There were several positives from England’s performance such as Raheem Sterling but once again Wayne Rooney looked out of sorts, something that manager Roy Hodgson needs to correct if they are to stay in the competition. If he can’t then England’s World Cup campaign will go the same way as Lewen’s – over before it began.

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Atletico La Liga Victory Parade On Hold Due To Travel Issues

Atletico celebrate their first title in 18 years (Image from AP)Imagine waiting a long time for something and then not being able to do it due to bad planning. Well that’s exactly what Atletico Madrid are going through right now. The new la Liga champions, who secured their first title in 18 years, are being forced to wait until the start of next season to get their hands on the trophy because Spanish football president Angel Maria Vilar was travelling. Some would say its bad timing given the significance of Sunday’s title decider. But others may feel that it’s a deliberate snub by a man who is rumoured to have grown up as a Real Madrid fan. In any case, it is a black mark against the 64 year old who has been Spanish President since 1988. After one of the most exciting La Liga seasons in the past 20 years, for Vilar not be present at a match of this significance to Spanish football is baffling. Why Vilar did not cancel his travel plans to ensure he would be at the Nou Camp to present the winner with the trophy is unknown. At best he should have appointed someone else to the role to ensure that the season ended on a high. Now trophyless, Atletico are unable to do a well deserved victory parade.

Vilar was on hand last season to present the trophy to Barcelona  (Image from AFP)

Vilar was on hand last season to present the trophy to Barcelona
(Image from AFP)

Not that Diego Simeone will mind as he now switches his focus to this Saturday’s Champions League final against city rivals Real. Injuries to star striker Diego Costa and Turkish midfielder Arda Turan are legitimate concerns for Simone as they look to win their first ever Champions League trophy and end the season with a famous double. Real too have injury worries with Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to shake off a thigh strain. However with Gareth Bale on form and Karin Benzema firing on all cylinders again, Real Madrid are a formidable force with or without Ronaldo. Atletico will know that they need to be at full strength if they are to repeat their win from last year’s Copa del Rey final and will need Costa and Turan fit to do so. Costa limped off after 14 minutes against Barcelona with a tweak of his hamstring that has been troubling him for a few months now. Turan followed seven minutes later after landing heavily and awkwardly on his back following a strong challenge by Cesc Fabregas. The Turkish midfielder is so often the creator of opportunities for Atletico so his absence will be a bitter blow. His chances of making Saturday’s showcase in Lisbon is rated as slim however Costa is more likely to recover and be ready to face Real.

Sweating over Costa and Turan  (Image from Getty)

Sweating over Costa and Turan
(Image from Getty)

Celebrations have been cut short by Simeone who needs his players to remain focused and ready for the challenge ahead. One final effort to round off a dream season for Atletico. Victory parade or not, Atletico will be prepared to face Real Madrid and its star studded lineup. Angel Maria Vilar is expected to be in the crowd presumably cheering on both sides but the responsibility of handing out the trophy will fall to UEFA president Michel Platini who is unlikely to miss such a momentous occasion. If Atletico do win the match, then Simeone and his players may just get the victory parade that they deserve.

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