Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid: Positional breakdown

Here, we examine which side has the advantage in various departments on the pitch heading into the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.


At the start of the season, Real Madrid shot-stopper Keylor Navas was an unwanted man. He wasn’t even supposed to be with the team, since a swap deal with Manchester United for David De Gea was supposed to be completed on transfer deadline day. The deal collapsed due to clerical errors.

One year on, the Costa Rican has established himself as the firm starter at the Bernabeu, making 44 appearances, recording 22 clean sheets, and allowing just 30 goals.

“I just keep my head down and work hard so good things will come my way,” he says, and also hopes, as the 29-year-old will reportedly ask for a massive salary raise for next season, valued at €4.4 million per year, according to AS.

Navas would be the clear winner in any other circumstance if not for the efforts of Atletico Madrid’s netminder, Jan Oblak. Signed for €16 million – a league high for goalkeepers – Oblak made La Liga history this season as he tied the record for fewest goals allowed in a single campaign, with just 18 in 38 games.

He also recorded eight clean sheets in the Champions League.

“I’ve always praised him for his commitment and hard work, especially the way he earned the place he has in the team,” Atletico manager Diego Simeone said of the 23-year-old Slovenian. “He won his place in the team and we’re delighted with him. He has an enormous future.”

However, goalkeeping is very much a position based on an individual’s merits. Oblak’s accolades could be attributed to the staunch defense he sits behind. Navas has been a solo hero consistently, and also set a Champions League record with eight consecutive shutouts.

So, the only point of difference between the two comes when they are called on to be the hero. Should these two teams go to penalties, Navas has the edge, having saved more penalties this year than Oblak.

Advantage: Real Madrid


On paper, Real Madrid boasts a backline of some of the best individual talents in the world, in any combination of four. Dani Carvajal, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, and Marcelo would be considered natural starters, but Raphael Varane is equally talented.

All of these players individually would be welcome in any team around the world.

However, defending is at its most effective when the backline plays as a unit. And, in that regard, there is no finer back four than Atletico Madrid’s.

With Juanfran and Filipe Luis outside and Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez in the middle, Simeone has built himself a defensive unit that has proven impenetrable throughout the season.

The basic tenets of Simeone’s system mirror that of Jose Mourinho’s: the back four sits deep in a compact shape and only breaks from that shape to press the ball when the risk is low and the reward is high. The ball, when recovered, is then played quickly to Atletico’s attackers, who themselves drop back to help defend.

It’s aggressive and ruthless and it works; Atletico hasn’t conceded more than two goals in a single game this season in La Liga or the Champions League.

Advantage: Atletico Madrid


Atletico offers a line of four midfielders who do a job but do it quietly, and their most useful purpose seems to be in dropping back and offering another bank of four for opposition attackers to try and work around.

The advantage here is in Real’s central duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Modric, in particular, has the vision needed to provide a slicing pass through Atletico’s defensive walls.

That could prove to be the advantage here for Real Madrid.

Advantage: Real Madrid


Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres have enjoyed solid campaigns this season, but there are few frontlines quite as efficient as Real Madrid’s. Karim Benzema leads the line with two of the best winger-forwards in the world on either side in Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Nicknamed “the BBC,” this trio of attackers combined for 78 goals and 28 assists in La Liga, with Ronaldo’s 35 goals and 11 assists leading the pack. Griezmann put in a commendable 22-goal performance this year, which is no laughing matter, but he’s just one man.

In the Champions League, Ronaldo ruled supreme; he leads the competition with 16 goals to Griezmann’s seven. This part of the field is simply no contest.

Ultimately, this is where the disparity exists between the two teams; Real Madrid’s ruthless offense will try to break down Atletico Madrid’s impenetrable defense.

May the best side win.

Advantage: Real Madrid

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