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Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: Can Diego Simeone’s side heal the heartbreak of last season’s final defeat with a derby win?

14 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: Can Diego Simeone’s side heal the heartbreak of last season’s final defeat with a derby win?

The underdogs were just seconds from winning the competition last year until Real hit back in the dying seconds

Just 90 seconds. Just 90 agonising seconds. That’s how close Ateltico Madrid were to winning the Champions League and completing a remarkable La Liga and European Cup double last season.

And then Sergio Ramos rose above all comers to head in a corner from Luka Modric to force extra time.

After that, Atletico’s resistance wilted and after Gareth Bale, Marcelo and finally Cristiano Ronaldo netted in extra time, the 4-1 scoreline looked like a hiding.

But the narrative ran thus: Real Madrid finally won ‘La Decima’ – their 10th European Cup after 12 years of trying, and Atleti should be happy – after all, they had broken the Real/Barcelona duopoly to win the title.

Only it doesn’t really work like that, does it? Losing a final of that magnitude in whatever circumstances is always going to hurt – especially when the football establishment will likely write off Atletico reaching that stage of the competition as a one-off, not to be repeated when the traditional big dogs get their act together once again.

It is the job of boss Diego Simeone and his players to ensure that is not the case. Indeed, the Argentine has done a remarkable job in getting Madrid’s second team punching in the same weight category as Real.

Since his arrival in 2011 the former Atleti midfielder has delivered the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Super Cup, the Europa League and the European Super Cup – as well as La Liga.

But it was in the process of winning the Copa del Rey that Simeone masterminded another key achievement of his tenure. His side beat Real Madrid in their own ground in the final to end an almost unbelievable 14-year winless stretch in the fixture.

On paper, this one looks like a banker for Real: seven points ahead in La Liga, and boasting the defence-scaring talents of Ronaldo, Bale, James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Isco and Asier Illarramendi all in the same team.

But as the old cliché goes, football is played on grass, not paper, and since they cast off that 14-year winless run against Los Blancos, Atleti will always fancy their chances.

And they have plenty of talent of their own. Midfielder Antoine Griezmann and striker Mario Mandzukic have been supplying the goals – and Simeone received a boost this week when the Croatia forward was passed fit for the match, having missed the last two games with an ankle injury.

To get this far, Ateltico finished top of their group, but needed penalties to get past Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16.

Real made shorter work of the group stage, winning all six games, but they too had a scare in their last 16 match with Schalke, eventually squeaking through 5-4 on aggregate.

Madrid will definitely have a representative in the semi-finals, but will Ronaldo and Co continue their march towards an incredible 11th European Cup? Or can Atleti pull off another win over their cross town rivals?

Here’s one last stat to ponder: since that heart-breaking night for Simone’s side in Lisbon, they have played Real six times. And they haven’t lost once.