The most important game in club football worldwide is about to be played tonight, May 24th, 2014 in Lisbon and it features the first ever Champions League final between city rivals – Real versus Atletico. While this game will mark the 13th CL Finals appearance for Real, it would be Atletico’s first in 40 years. Real have experience and way more money to their advantage, but Atletico have dealt with every challenge thrown at them this season.
History shows that Real have been quite successful in such Finals as they have won 9 out of their 12 Champions League title games thus far. That’s a pretty impressive percentage even for the world’s most popular club. Their head coach Carlo Ancelotti has won that cup four times, both as player and as a coach, while that would be the first appearance for Diego Simeone. Atletico lost their only previous final back in 1974. History is definitely in favor of Real, but we know that such stats count for nothing on the pitch.
Bookmakers such as bet365.com are clearing favoring the richer, more experienced and more expensive side in that game as the odds on Real to win the title are set at 1.5, while the players in Red and White stripes are rated at 2.62 to Win Outright (regardless of whether in regular time or not). The clubs met four times this season. Los Merenques won the two cup games to eventually lift the trophy, while Atletico won the first league game at the Bernabeu 0:1 and drew the second 2:2.
Few could have predicted the incredible success Atletico have enjoyed this season. Their achievements ever since Diego Simeone took charge four years ago have been nothing short of amazing given their modest financial capabilities and the fact that each summer they part ways with some of their top players. Falco was sold to Monaco last summer, and everyone thought it was over for them. But Diego Costa burst onto the scene and the team got even better. During the previous transfer window, they sold Kun Aguero to Man City, and Fernando Torres took to Liverpool a couple of years before that. That’s the thing about Atletico – they seem to have nag for discovering world class strikers, and regardless with whom they part ways, someone else that’s even better comes on the horizon for them.
While Real Madrid are used to spending big and get the best individual talents in the game, Atletico have formed a real team with incredible spirit. That was evident in the way they triumphed at Neu Camp last week. Cost and Turan went down with injuries in the first half, and Barca took the lead with a lucky yet beautiful goal by Sanches. The dream was staring to pale for the Madrid club, but they somehow managed to gather themselves during half time and took control over the game in the second half, scored the equalizer, defended superbly for the last 15-20 minutes and were rightfully crowned champions of Spain despite the seemingly overwhelming competition of Real and Barce, both of which have far greater financial capabilities and more talented individuals.
This game will be a battle between money and vision for talent, between traditions and ambitions, individuals versus team spirit. Most folks favor Real, but anything can happen in a single game. Atletico are no strangers to winning trophies in recent years, as they won the Europa League twice, won the European Super Cup twice as well, won the Coppa del Rey, and just won the Primera for the first time in twenty years. The great advantage for them is the fact that they will not carry the heavy burden of expectations as Real would. Winning the decima has turned into something of an obsession for Real and all their fans worldwide, while Atletico have nothing to lose. They have done more than expected already with their league triumph and now they enter the pitch in Lisbon with clear minds and free spirits. In addition, Real would be missing their “brain” in midfield as Xabi Alonso is suspended. And let’s not forget that Atletico are the only undefeated team in this year’s Champions League.