Wednesday, May 13, 2015


8:42:00 AM - By Hisia 0

Atletico Madrid have a chance in Saturday's Champions League final not only to claim their debut European crown but to deny their loathed and vastly wealthier neighbours Real Madrid a record-extending 10th.

Atletico have already outperformed this season in securing a remarkable La Liga triumph, shattering the domestic dominance of Real and Barcelona and becoming the first team other than the big two to win the Spanish title since Valencia in 2004.

They are also back competing with the continent's elite after a lengthy absence and the first showpiece between teams from the same city in the 59-year history of the European Cup is their second final after they lost out to Bayern Munich in 1974.

Real, the world's richest club by income who have splashed more than 600 million euros (£486m) on players over the past five years, are appearing in their 13th final, but the first since their last success in 2002. Their vast outlay is proof of Real president Florentino Perez's obsession with winning what is known in Spain as "la decima" (the 10th).

"From the first day a player arrives at the club, he is already saying that he has come to win the 'decima'," former Real forward Predrag Mijatovic said in an interview with Marca sports daily published on Wednesday.

"There is too much pressure being put on the players," added the Montenegrin, who scored the winner in Real's 1-0 Champions League final triumph against Juventus in 1998. "The best way to take the sting out of this obsession is winning and then we won't be talking about the 10th anymore."

Atletico, known as "the mattress makers" after their red and white-striped shirts, and Real, who play in all-white and are nicknamed "the meringues", have met only once before in continental competition, in the European Cup semi-finals in 1958-59. Real went through to what was their fourth consecutive final after winning a replay in Zaragoza when Ferenc Puskas scored the winner in a 2-1 success.

The city neighbours have met four times this season. In La Liga, Atletico won 1-0 at Real's Bernabeu stadium and they drew 2-2 at the Calderon in the return, while in the two-legged Copa del Rey semi-finals Atletico were on the end of a 5-0 aggregate drubbing.

Those encounters are unlikely to have much impact on the Champions League final, with Atletico, unbeaten in Europe this term and on a high after wrapping up the La Liga title on Saturday and Real under enormous pressure to avoid what would be a humiliating reverse.

Cristiano Ronaldo, top scorer in this season's competition with a record 16 goals, believes the expectation weighing on him and his team mates can be used to their advantage.

"Since the first day we came here, we've felt that positive pressure to win the Champions League," the FIFA Ballon d'Or winner told the UEFA website. "Real Madrid have wanted it for a long time," added the Portugal captain, a European champion with Manchester United in 2008. "It is a moment that the whole Madrid family are dreaming about - the 'decima'."

Atletico have held one celebration at the Neptune fountain in central Madrid this season, partying with their delirious fans after winning La Liga for the first time in 18 years, and will be hoping to return with the European Cup. Should they fall short, Real and their fans will flock to the nearby Cibeles fountain having finally claimed the elusive 'decima' after more than a decade of disappointment.


While Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to overcome a thigh problem, Carlo Ancelotti has injury concerns, with forward Karim Benzema and centre-back Pepe in a race to get fit. Raphael Varane would replace Pepe if necessary, added the Italian, while Alvaro Morata could come in as a straight swap for Benzema at centre forward. Real's chances were dealt a blow in the semi-final against holders Bayern when midfielder Xabi Alonso earned a booking that means he is suspended for the final. They are likely to miss the control he gives the team and likely replacement Asier Illarramendi, who has failed to impress since joining from Real Sociedad, may be out of his depth against Atletico's experienced midfield.

Atletico are sweating on the fitness of top scorer Diego Costa, who has eight Champions League goals this term. The Brazil-born forward, a Spain international, has been suffering with a series of muscle problems and limped out of Saturday's title decider at Barcelona along with Turkey playmaker Arda Turan. If Costa and Arda are sidelined, forward Adrian, who scored the opening goal at Chelsea in the semi-final second leg and attacking midfielder Raul Garcia are likely to come in.


Carlo Ancelotti: "Right now (the injured players) can't play but we have four more days until the final and we will make a decision right at the end."

Diego Simeone: "We will wait to see how the Diego Costa and Arda Turan injury situation evolves by the end of week. We will seek alternatives if they do not recover in time."


Atletico Madrid have reached the final of the European Cup/Champions League for the first time since 1974 when they eventually lost in the final against Bayern Munich after a replay.

Real Madrid have reached the final of the European Cup/Champions League for the first time since 2002 (2-1 v Bayer Leverkusen). They have won it nine times, more than any other club. Real Madrid have won nine of their 12 finals in the European Cup/Champions League.

Atletico Madrid have won only two of their last 30 competitive games against Real Madrid (7 draws), both victories coming in 2013 at the Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey final and in la Liga. However, Atletico have won four of their five finals against Real Madrid, all in the Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have met once before in European competition. It was in the semi-finals of the 1958/59 European Cup; the tie was level after two legs before Real Madrid won the deciding play-off. Real then won the final against Reims.

Real Madrid have won 11 of their last 13 Champions League games (1 draw, 1 defeat). Their only defeat this season came at Dortmund in the quarter-finals (0-2).

Atletico Madrid are the only team unbeaten in the Champions League this season (9 wins, 3 draws).

Manchester Utd are the last team to lift the Champions League trophy without losing a single game in that season’s competition, it was in 2007/08.

Victory for Atletico Madrid would make them only the fifth team to win all three of UEFA’s competitions – the European Cup/Champions League, the Cup Winners’ Cup and the Europa League/UEFA Cup. Ajax, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Chelsea are the other four.

Real Madrid have the best attacking record in the Champions League this season, scoring 37 goals in 12 games. They are the only team in Champions League history (since 1992/93) to average over 3 goals per game in a single campaign (3.1).

Atletico Madrid have the best defensive record in the Champions League this season, conceding only six goals in 12 games.

Diego Costa has scored eight goals in eight Champions League games this season (1 assist). That’s half as many as Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid have only converted one of their three penalties in the Champions League this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 16 goals in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign is a record. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 37 goals in his last 29 Champions League games.

Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria are the top assist providers in the Champions League this season (5 each, level with Wayne Rooney).

Gareth Bale is the player who has nevertheless delivered the most assists in this season’s knockout stages of the competition (4).

Carlo Ancelotti has reached the final of the Champions League for the fourth time as manager, and for the first time since 2007. All of his previous three finals were with AC Milan.

Ancelotti could become only the second manager to win three European Cup/Champions League titles after Bob Paisley who won all three with Liverpool (1977, 1978, 1981).

Diego Simeone has seen his side win two of their eight clashes with Real Madrid in all competitions (D1 L5). One of those wins came in last season’s Copa Del Rey final (2-1).

Of the goalkeepers to have made 20+ saves in the Champions League this season, Iker Casillas (84.3%) and Thibaut Courtois (82.9%) have the best save percentages.

Both Casillas and Courtois have kept five clean sheets in the Champions League this season, level with Petr Cech and David de Gea.

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