Champions League Final 2017: Real Madrid's road to Wales

Zinedine Zidane has done a superb job since taking over the helm at Real Madrid in January 2016. He has only recently led Madrid to their first La Liga title since 2012 and will now be aiming to win the UEFA Champions League for the second year running. 

They still have one last significant barrier to get past in the form of Juventus, captained by Gianluigi Buffon, who is still looking for his first Champions League title. 

Madrid unconvincing in group stages

When drawn against the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Legia Warszawa and Sporting Clube de Portugal in the group stages of the competition, many expected Madrid to breeze through as group winners. 

However, this soon proved not to be the case. Madrid needed two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Álvaro Morata to come from behind to beat Sporting in the opening group game at the Santiago Bernabeu. They then twice thew away the lead against Borussia Dortmund in Germany as André Schürrle scored a late equaliser for the home side in a 2-2 draw. 

Alvaro Morata netted a late winner for Madrid against Sporting Lisbon. (picture: Getty Images / Angel Martinez)
Alvaro Morata netted a late winner for Madrid against Sporting Lisbon. (picture: Getty Images / Angel Martinez)

They got their biggest win of their Champions League campaign so far in mid-October with a 5-1 home win against Legia Warsaw, with Welsh star Gareth Bale among the scorers. However, when they visited Poland a couple of weeks later they needed a late equaliser from Mateo Kovačić to salvage a point despite earlier being two goals in front. 

The holders secured their place in the last 16 of the competition with a game to spare as a late Karim Benzema winner in Portugal saw them beat Sporting 2-1. However, their defensive frailties were evident once again in a 2-2 draw against Dortmund at the Bernabeu ensuring the German side topped the group. Goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus saw them come back from two down to claim an impressive draw. 

Napoli comfortably seen off 

Madrid got a favourable tie in the last 16 of the tournament as they drew Italian outfit Napoli despite only finishing second in the group. However, Lorenzo Insigne put the away side ahead within eight minutes at the Bernabeu to stun the home crowd. However, goals from Benzema, Toni Kroos and a goal of the tournament contender from Casemiro saw Madrid take a healthy lead into the second leg. 

Madrid had to again come from a goal down as Dries Mertens put Napoli ahead in a first-half they largely dominated. Despite this, Madrid still remained in control of the tie and second half goals from Sergio Ramos, Morata and an own goal from Mertens saw them comfortably win the tie 6-2 on aggregate. 

Battle of the European giants

Bayern Munich were Madrid's next opponents in the quarter-finals of the tournament in what proved to be a thrilling tie. The first-leg was full of drama as Arturo Vidal headed Bayern ahead before missing a penalty to double the host's advantage. The German outfit were then reduced to 10 as Javi Martinez was given his marching orders. Ronaldo found the back of the net either side of Martinez's dismissal to give Madrid a slender advantage to take back to the Bernabeu. 

Bayern Munich took Madrid to extra-time in the quarter-finals. (picture: Getty Images / Matthies Hangst)
Bayern Munich took Madrid to extra-time in the quarter-finals. (picture: Getty Images / Matthies Hangst)

Remarkably, the second-leg provided even more drama than the first. It was Ronaldo who once again grabbed the headlines as he netted a hat-trick to help Madrid to a 4-2 victory on the night and a 6-3 victory on aggregate. However, it was not all plain sailing for the hosts as a Robert Lewandowski penalty and own goal from Ramos had seen Bayern take the tie to extra time. 

Ronaldo performs on the big stage again

It appeared to be a mouth watering clash in the semi-finals of the competition when Real drew their arch rivals Atletico Madrid. However, it proved to be a fairly one-sided tie, mainly due to the influence of one man. Ronaldo scored yet another European hat-trick to give Real a commanding 3-0 advantage to take into the second-leg at the Vincente Calderon.

Early goals from Saúl Ñíguez and Antoine Griezmann gave Atletico some momentum as they looked on track to get themselves right back in with a chance of making the final. Despite this, the home side's supporters were stunned just before half-time as Real grabbed a vital away goal that effectively ended the tie through Isco

Isco grabbed the killer away goal in the second-leg. (picture: Getty Images / Laurence Griffiths)
Isco grabbed the killer away goal in the second-leg. (picture: Getty Images / Laurence Griffiths)

One win away from glory

Zidane's men now find themselves once again, just one win away from taking home the Champions League trophy. However, they will face stern opposition in Juventus whose defence has rarely been troubled so far in the tournament. 

Ronaldo is bound to have a significant impact on this game and if he can reach the level he has shown in the previous two knockout rounds in which he has scored back-to-back hat-tricks, he could well lead Madrid to their third European crown in just four years. 

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