Update: Real Madrid beat Atlético Madrid
On Saturday, the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League will be played as Real Madrid meets city rivals Atlético Madrid at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal. We're here to help new fans and casual viewers to the sport of soccer get prepared for one of the biggest annual events on the sport's calendar.
Just a quick reminder: if you're a soccer geek like us and you don't need to be caught up, go ahead and head over to SB Nation Soccer, featuring all of our coverage for Saturday's match.
The European Cup -- or European Champion Clubs' Cup -- was first contested in 1955 and became the Champions League in 1992. It has become one of the most watched and talked about club tournaments in the world, and last year's final drew over 150 million television viewers worldwide.
Before we talk about the two teams and some players to watch, here's a quick explanation of how the final will work.
The Champions League final is a winner-take-all match for the European Cup, the biggest prize in European club soccer.
As per usual, if one team is leading after 90 minutes, they win. Should the game be tied after full time, 30 minutes of extra time will be played -- broken into two 15-minute halves -- without sudden death rules. Both teams can score as many goals as they like during extra time, and the 30 minutes will be played in full. If the score is still tied after 120 minutes, the match will be decided via penalty kicks.
Now, let's meet the teams that will be participating in the final and their key players.
Real Madrid are one of the world's biggest clubs, both in terms of their brand's reach and their overall success. They've won the Spanish Primera Division -- also referred to as La Liga -- 32 times, ten more times than Barcelona. Real have also won the European Cup nine times, more than any other club. Real are attempting to become the first club to win the trophy ten times, a feat they've been chasing since 2002, when they won their ninth cup.
There's a good chance that even if you've never watched soccer before, you've at least heard of Cristiano Ronaldo. He's the current holder of Ballon D'Or trophy -- awarded to the best player in the sport during the previous year -- and is considered one of the best players in the world. Working primarily in an attacking role on the left side of Real Madrid's attack, Ronaldo is a prolific goal scorer, and the type of player that can single-handedly win games. Ronaldo has won the Champions League once before with Manchester United, and this is his third appearance in a final. He will also be leading Portugal against the United States next month in the World Cup group stages.
Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid from Tottenham for an astounding $124 million last summer. Why would a team that already has Cristiano Ronaldo pay so much for another attacking star? The answer is that he provides a counter-balance to Ronaldo, playing on the right side of the attack and forcing defenses to deal with two world-class players. The Welshman is a speedy winger, with the ability to score both amazing goals and provide excellent crosses into the 18-yard-box.
Luka Modrić has come into his own this season for Real Madrid, becoming an integral part of their midfield. His job is not to score goals, but rather to be the key link for how the team moves the ball forward and attacks. Modrić has a high work rate, excellent technical ability and is a tremendous passer. The biggest challenge Real is expected to face on Saturday is breaking through Atléti's midfield, and that's where Modrić comes in. If he is able to get the ball through the middle and find either Bale or Ronaldo making runs, it could be a long day for Atléti.
Atleti’s Gabi celebrates the La Liga title. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Atlético Madrid are also one of Spain's most successful clubs, but their trophy count is severely overwhelmed by the success of Real Madrid and Barcelona. They are the current La Liga champions, having won the league on the final day thanks to a draw against Barca. Atléti have never won the European Cup, having only reached the final once in their history in 1974, where they lost 4-0 against Bayern Munich.
It's possible that Atléti will be without their leading scorer and attacking talisman, Diego Costa, for Saturday's final. The striker has been struggling with hamstring issues over the past few weeks, going so far as to get horse placenta cells injected into his leg in hopes of being able to play. As important as he's been for the team this season, their collection of talented players means they can still win without him.
Three of those players you should watch for in the match are Thibault Courtois, Gabi and Koke.
Thibault Courtois is Atléti's talented young goalkeeper who is actually on-loan from English club Chelsea. Everyone knows what goalkeepers do and how important they can be to a team, but such is Courtois' ability that we're singling him out for your attention. The 22-year-old Belgian is already among the best goalkeepers in the world, and there's every reason to believe he's going to be a force in the game for the next decade or more. He's tall (6' 6"), has a huge wingspan and is gifted with cat-like reflexes.
Gabi is Atléti's captain, and the key man in the center of their formation. Gabi plays in the midfield, covering an absurd amount of ground as he races around contesting passes, preventing opponents from dribbling freely and basically being an all around pest. He's also capable of getting forward and creating scoring chances for Atléti. The more you hear Gabi's name being called by the commentators, the better things are going for the underdogs on Saturday.
Koke is one of the brightest young stars in the sport right now, a player coveted by some of the biggest clubs in Europe. He plays on the left wing for Atléti, working in a dual role as a potentially dangerous attacker and a strong defender. He can pass, he can dribble and he can beat defenders on the run. There's really not much the 22-year-old can't do. He's both fun to watch and a crucial part of Atléti's hopes of winning their first European Cup.
Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET. If you live in the United States, you can catch the game on FOX, FOX Deportes or FOX Soccer 2 Go. The pre-match show begins at 2 p.m. ET.