Real and Atletico have turned Madrid into capital of football world
Madrid is the capital of football these days: Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
Atletico defeated Chelsea 3-1 to advance to their first European Cup final in 40 years, where record nine-time champions Real await after crushing defending champions Bayern Munich 5-0 over two legs.
One year after an all-German Champions League final, Atletico’s victory Wednesday means the continent’s top competition will be played for the first time between clubs from the same city. The final is May 24 in Lisbon.
“I’m happy that it’s an all-Spanish final,” Atletico playmaker Koke said. “It’s going to be a special day, a very nice day because all of Madrid will be in Lisbon.”
Spanish media hailed the feat Thursday, with sports daily Marca’s headline touting “A Spanish Champion” while El Mundo said “Madrid wins the Champions League”. Even Catalan sports daily El Mundo Deportivo congratulated Atletico by running a “Historical!” headline rather than promoting Barcelona club news.
Atletico are on the verge of a historic double as they closes in on their first Spanish La Liga title in 18 years. Real are chasing a triple-title season after winning the Copa del Rey against Barcelona.
Nine-time champions Real and Atletico have met once before in the competition. In 1959, Real ousted Atletico in the semi-finals after winning a replay 2-1 when their two-legged tie finished 2-2. Atletico’s only final appearance came in 1974 when they lost to Bayern Munich 4-0 in a replay following a 1-1 draw.
While Madrid beat Atletico en route to this season’s domestic cup trophy, Atletico still enjoyed a breakthrough year against their city neighbours, who are returning to the final for the first time since 2002.
Atletico beat Real in the Copa del Rey final last season for their first win over the Spanish giants since 1999. They followed with a league victory at the Santiago Bernabeu followed by a draw at home at the Vicente Calderon.
Spanish leaders Atletico are six points ahead of Real, who have one game in hand, with three left. Barcelona trail the Spanish leaders by four points.
Atletico’s surprising season comes with a squad whose cost is a fraction of Real’s in a league that has been dominated by their neighbours and Barcelona. Valencia were the last club besides the big two to win the championship.
Atletico could clinch their first title since 1996 with a victory against Levante on Sunday if both Madrid and Barcelona lose.
“It’s crazy to think we’re in the Champions League final,” Atletico midfielder Tiago Mendes said. “But this team deserves it after everything it has accomplished.”
Even the city’s cleanup crews should have an easy time coordinating their work following the victor’s celebrations.
Real traditionally celebrate their triumphs at Plaza de Cibeles. Atletico’s fans gather just down the street at Plaza de Neptuno.
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Published: May 1, 2014 04:00 AM