Champions League crown awaits Atletico Madrid; the cagey kings

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Whoever it is that progresses to meet Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final will be the big pre-match attraction.

The household names, grand resources and attacking prowess of both Real Madrid and Manchester City are easier points of sale for May’s showpiece than the workmanlike style of Diego Simeone’s Rojiblancos. But that’s just the way Atleti like it.

Two glamour clubs have already fallen by the wayside at the hands of Simeone’s spirited grinders, with Bayern Munich joining Barcelona on the competition’s scrapheap after losing on away goals in the semi-finals.

On each occasion the Colchoneros took on tournament favourites and prevailed. Completing a hat-trick of giant-killings on the biggest stage of all would come as no surprise. In fact, it should be expected.

Ladbrokes currently give the Mattress Makers a 1/1 chance to win the competition, which puts them at the head of the betting. It’s a price that should be snapped up fast.

The case for their success amounts to far more than their triumphs against fearsome opponents in the previous two rounds though.

They have only lost to their city rivals once in the last 10 meetings and would be facing a Manchester City side deep in unchartered waters should it be the English club that reach the final.

Impermeable at the back having conceded just 16 La Liga goals and seven in the Champions League, Atleti are the masters of finding ways to win in tight and cagey affairs. That’s the perfect recipe for success in a major final.

Then, in Antoine Griezmann, they have one of the game’s most in-form front men ready to be unleashed on the counter attack.

The Frenchman has netted 28 times in league and European competitions this season and showed supreme composure to net the decisive away goal that landed his side a second Champions League final appearance in three years.

After collecting Spanish league and cup titles along with a Europa League as Atleti boss, all of them against the odds, few would deny Simeone completing the set in the Champions League.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.