May 18, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT
Before World Cup madness well and truly begins, there’s one more major event on the soccer calendar: the Champions League final. It’s set for next Saturday, May 24, when Lisbon temporarily becomes the capital of Spain. Atlético Madrid, who clinched the La Liga title this weekend, take on Real Madrid, who lifted the Copa del Rey last month.
And good news: Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be available to help Real in their pursuit of the décima.
Even before Saturday’s games had finished, fans were starting to worry about how next week’s Champions League final would play out. Ronaldo was set to start for Real against Espanyol, but left the warm-up due to tightness in his leg. Then, in the 67th minute, Álvaro Morata replaced Karim Benzema due to the latter’s injury. Morata wound up scoring two goals inside five minutes, but concerns remained: how would Real Madrid fare without their top two scorers, who have put in 48 between them?
No need to worry, says Carlo Ancelotti. Real’s boss confirmed that the decision to have Ronaldo sit out the win over Espanyol was purely precautionary. Had the match meant anything – if, say, los blancos were still in the title race – of course the star would have played. He’ll be available for the game in Lisbon.
As for Benzema, he’s a go as well. Ancelotti stated the forward had a “twinge” but he’d be able to play in the final.
What’s still uncertain is whether Atleti star Diego Costa will be available to give his side a boost. The forward was in tears after having to come off injured, less than fifteen minutes into Saturday’s title decider. He appeared to have aggravated his ongoing hamstring injury, but there’s no word yet from the club as to whether he’ll play a part next weekend.
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