The city of Madrid will travel to Lisbon on 24 May as their two priciple football clubs, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, go head to head to contest a thrilling Champions League final. This will be the first European cup final to feature teams from the same city.
With every passing year, the intensity of Real’s obsession with finally moving into double figures of Champions League titles grows and they have only one thing on their mind, ‘La por la Decima’, go for the 10th.
For many Real fans, local bragging rights are secondary to the dream of ending their 12 year wait for the sought after 10th title. Atletico, however, are approaching the final with the opposite intention, fully aware that they can attain unprecedented glory while wrecking the most cherished dreams of their bitter local rivals.
Although similar in their geography, the history of these two clubs remains very different. Madrid’s second club, Atletico, in the last five seasons have twice won the Europa League and the trip to Lisbon will only be the clubs second appearance in the final of Europe’s primary tournament.
Their only previous final was against Bayern Munich in 1974 when legendary striker Luis Aragones, who later coached Spain to glory at the 2008 European Championship, appeared to have won the trophy with a goal six minutes from the end of extra time. But Bayern levelled seconds before the final whistle and romped the replay 4-0, leaving Atletico with a painful ‘if only’ memory.
The late Aragones is sure to be cited as an inspiration for Atletico between now and the final. As the leading scorer in the club’s history, he further cemented his status by returning as manager on no less than four occasions, winning La Liga in 1977 as well as three Spanish cups.
Aragones described his managerial philosophy in simple terms: “Ganar y ganar y ganar y volver a ganar y ganar” – win and win and win and come back to win and win again, a motto which describes how a clubs attitude should really be.
Although Real have been presented as clear favourites by the bookmakers, Atletico have given them fair competition over the last year. Simeone’s men took a 2-1 victory over Real in last May’s Copa del Rey final at the Bernabeu, and claimed a victory and a draw from this season’s two La Liga meetings.
By the time the final comes around, Atletico could have secured an improbale La Liga title if they earn the six points from their next two games against mid table Levante and Malaga.
‘Marca’, the country’s top selling sports newspaper hailed Atleticos performance against Chelsea as ‘a memorable lesson in football.’ Although Atletico have already exceeded all expectations of leading La Liga and reaching the Champions League final, Real are sure to provide tough competition.
Their performance against Bayern Munich was stunning. Real dominated the game from start to finish to secure them their rightful place in the final.
Since the Second World War, Real have been the pre-eminent club both in Spain and right across Europe. Their vast trophy cabinet is the envy of clubs right across the world.
It contains a record 32 Spanish league championships, including five in a row between 1961 and 1965, 19 Spanish Cups, nine European Cups, including the first five, and two UEFA Cups.
So as Real prepare for their first European final in almost a decade and Atletico continue to exceed expectations, Spanish fans are enjoying their country’s dominance in the European football scene. Football fans will spend the incoming weeks trying to predicit the score but one thing is for sure, Spanish football is already the winner when it comes to the Champions League.