What You Need to Know When Ronaldo’s Feet Meet Atletico DefenseAlex Duff
Cristiano Ronaldo is a Champions League goal machine this year. Atletico Madrid has one of the stingiest defenses in Europe. Following are why the forward will prevail -- or not -- when Real Madrid faces Atletico tomorrow in the Champions League final at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz.
* No Else One Has Stopped Him: Ronaldo scored in all but one of 10 Champions League matches, setting a European cup record with 16 goals. He reminded fans when he passed the old mark of 14, jointly held by Lionel Messi and Jose Altafini, in the semifinal against Bayern Munich, by counting them out on his fingers.
* On The Ground: Ronaldo scored on a free kick from 20 yards in the semifinals when a wall of Bayern players jumped, anticipating that he would loft the ball over them. He calmly rolled the ball under the airborne defenders and past a hapless goalkeeper.
* In The Air: The 6-foot-1 Portuguese netted three of his Champions League goals this season with his forehead. Biomechanical tests at England’s University of Chichester in 2011 found that he has a vertical leap of 78 centimeters (31 inches) from a standing start. That’s seven centimeters higher than the average NBA player, according to sports science website topendsports.com.
* Unpredictable: Sometimes he shoots with the front of his shoe, keeping his leg straight in the follow-through. Since the ball has no spin, it moves and wobbles unpredictably in the air like a knuckleball in baseball.
* Fancy Feet: He scored five goals by beating the keeper one-on-one. He produced four others with his dribble, embarrassing defenders with feints and step-overs. “He’s the complete forward,” Real coach Carlo Ancelotti says.
* Sparse Success: Champions League offenses have been frozen by Atletico coach Diego Simeone’s defense. In 12 games, it allowed an average of 0.5 goal a match. In the Spanish league, which Atletico won last weekend for the first time in 18 years, it let in 26 goals in 38 games. Real, which was third, conceded 38.
* Little Chance: Atletico’s back four -- Juanfran, Filipe Luis, Miranda and Godin -- barely give opponents a sniff at goal. In La Liga they allowed an average 0.6 clear-cut chances a game, according to Bloomberg Sports data. “The key to the way we play is our order and intensity,” Godin says.
* No Counter: Real Madrid scored 13 Spanish league goals on the counterattack this season; Atletico allowed one on the break.
* Spanish Champions: Atletico won La Liga, the first team other than Real or Barcelona in the past 10 years. While it lost to Real in the Copa del Rey semifinal, Atletico had success against Real in their two league games: A 1-0 win on Sept. 28 and a 2-2 draw March 2.
* Bloomberg Sports analytics puts the teams almost even, with Real having a 50.6 percent chance of taking the trophy; Atletico is at 49.4 percent.