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Sunday 24th Sep 2017

Imagine, aliens land near Madrid, Spain on Saturday, May 28 and….

Scratch that. Let’s use a more believable example. A typical American tourist, oblivious to soccer, arrives in Madrid on that day to begin his European vacation. By the time he has checked in at his hotel, his impression of the Spaniards is the polar opposite of what he was told. He feels that the locals are curt, inattentive, distracted and borderline rude.

Needing a brief rest after the long flight, our tourist does not leave the hotel until 8:30 PM, which he thinks is perfectly fine because his hotel is near Gran Via, dubbed the Spanish Broadway, one of the streets with the most nightlife in Europe and known as the street that never sleeps.

He finds the Grand Via practically deserted with few hurried cars and even fewer rushing pedestrians. Restaurants are empty but the café bars are full of people and everyone is watching TV. All TVs appear to be tuned to the same channel.

Fear grips the lonely tourist. Has a catastrophe fallen on the city? No! It’s the finals of the Championship League, the UEFA Cup, the most prestigious European soccer title, and two prominent Spanish clubs, both from Madrid, the two nearest rivals, clash tonight.

On Saturday, May 28 at 8:30 PM CET, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will duke it out at San Siro, the futuristic Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milano, northern Italy. Atletico reached the finals by force, first eliminating Barcelona and then Bayern Munich, two European powerhouses. This is the third UEFA final for Atletico. All three were lost. On the other hand, it is the 14th time that Real will play in the final, and they have won ten times. To reach San Siro, Real was scrappy and on the verge of elimination. In the semifinals, Real edged Manchester City by a minimum of 1-0 after two games.

The match is a repeat of the finals of two years ago when Real beat Atletico 4-1 in extra time. Is this payback time for Atletico? Will this time, Colchoneros, Atletico’s nickname, go all the way? As of this writing, polls are 60/40 for Real. On the pitch, it is Cristiano Ronaldo against Antoine Greizmann. On the sidelines, it is Zinedine Zidane against Diego Simeone. Can’t wait to watch the game.

Whoever wins, it will be celebration time in Madrid. By 11 PM, the streets will be crowded with honking cars and sidewalks and plazas will be packed with people wearing team colors, running excitedly and carrying flags and banners of whichever team has won. The match cannot end without a winner. In case of a tie score at the end of regular time, there will first be two extra periods, and then penalty kicks will decide who brings home the trophy. Ah, to be in Madrid on May 28.

The 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League season starts in August; it will be interesting to follow the Leicester Foxes, who secured a Group Stage spot.

Note that DraftKings features several leagues that are waiting for your lineups. Euro 2016, the European Nations Cup, starts June 10 in France. Mastersball will cover the tournament.

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