Halfway through the Champions League final, it's Real Madrid 1, Atletico 0. Here are three key storylines from the first half.
Atletico attack struggles to get going.
The Atleti started in their typical 4-4-2 today with Augusto preferred over Yannick Carrasco. Gabi and Augusto formed the central partnership in midfield with Saul on the right wing and Koke on the left. From the half hour mark onward, Koke finally started to get more involved, but generally the two Spanish midfielders had trouble getting forward to provide support for Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann.
It's likely not coincidental that Koke's heightened involvement coincided with a tactical shift that saw Griezmann dropping deeper, turning the relatively simple 4-4-2 into a more layered 4-2-3-1 with Koke and Saul pushed forward and Griezmann playing a bit deeper. If Atletico cannot find a goal early in the second half, expect to see Augusto or Gabi withdrawn and replaced by Carrasco. The Belgian winger could give Atletico another attacking option and allow both Koke and Saul to play in more central, advanced areas where their dribbling and passing could cause more trouble for Real Madrid.
The second half could be interesting as we'll see the attack-minded Galactico side of Real Madrid forced to protect a lead and the defense-first Atleti forced to chase. The winner may well be decided by which team handles the role reversal more successfully.
Ramos strikes again.
In my preview to the match I suggested that Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo would have difficulty finding space against Atletico and may pose their greatest threat via set pieces. While they've had slightly more space than you might have expected, the set piece threat has still been the biggest. Jan Oblak was forced into a stunning reflex save to deny Casemiro in only the sixth minute. Nine minutes later, Bale again proved a dangerous set piece threat, winning a flick-on header off a Toni Kroos free kick that Sergio Ramos (who else?) bundled over the line. Ramos may have been offside on the goal, but it was tight. It's hard not to wonder if part of the set piece problem has been exacerbated by the absence of Jose Gimenez in the first XI today. Savic only made 10 starts in the league this year and only started with Godin eight times. Perhaps a more experienced partnership might have handled the set piece danger a bit more effectively?
Clattenburg keeps a tight seal on the game.
I worried when his appointment was announced that Clattenburg would struggle to keep the game under control, particularly given his dire performance in a vital end-of-season match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the Premier League. But a 10th minute yellow card to Madrid right back Dani Carvajal promptly ended some of the scrappiness that marked the early part of the match.