Madrid's sheer will to win has shone through again as their combination of mental toughness and exceptional individual talent has brought them back to Europe's biggest stage.
Unafraid to shake things up, Zinédine Zidane has brought a flexible approach at the Bernabéu this season
Pulling the strings during the run to the final, Zinédine Zidane underlined his reputation as a coach able to find solutions to the tactical questions posed by Europe’s top teams.
The holders kicked off their title defence with their usual 4-3-3 formation, but the Frenchman has rung the changes since the start of the knockout phase. Flexible with both his team’s system and their style of play, Zidane has tailored his approach for certain opponents and successfully adapted his tactics in games.
In general, Zidane’s recent preference has been for a 4-4-2 diamond set-up, with Isco playing just behind the strike duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. The midfielder has been pivotal in a system Madrid used to great effect during their campaign last year.
Zidane has switched to a flatter midfield four or even a 4-2-3-1 when required, introducing Marco Asensio, Lucas Vázquez and Gareth Bale to provide width and support the full-backs. It worked wonders during Madrid’s 3-1 comeback victory against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 first leg, and helped them weather the storm as Juventus threatened an upset at the Santiago Bernabéu in the quarter-finals.
Pace out wide also allowed Madrid to expose FC Bayern München on the break in their semi-final opener, with full-backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal playing critical roles. They have flourished as an attacking force in the knockout rounds, while playing their part in a back four marshalled expertly by captain Sergio Ramos.