Posted: Tuesday 20th May 2014 at 5:56 am

La Décima o La Primero? Madrid- The City of Champions

UCL Ball and Trophy. jpg

UCL Ball and Trophy. jpg



The battle lines are drawn, the date is May 24, 2014. The venue of attraction and hostlity is Benfica’s magnificent Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal and roaring in the terraces will be 65,647 fans. Don’t get confused. This is not Beyoncé’s musical concert, neither is it a religious gathering but rather the finals of the prestigious club competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League.

On the said date, the city of Madrid will decamp to Lisbon to witness two ‘sons’ of the land engage in a battle to rule European club football. Both clubs have a rich history as well as legions of bigoted fans that will certainly make themselves heard in Portugal.

Real Madrid, current Copa del Rey champions is arguably the best football club in Spain and across Europe. The club’s avalanche of trophies and honors leaves much to be desired. Their trophy cabinet contains a record of 32 La Liga trophies, 19 Spanish Cups, 9 European Cups and 2 UEFA Cups. Real Madrid has indeed had a whale of time. The pursuit of the ‘La Décima’ (the tenth), a phrase coined by club president Florentino Pérez after their last triumph in 2002 has become something of an obsession for everyone associated with the club ever since.

In their quest to reclaim their lost glory as far as the UEFA Champions League is concerned, the club have spent a colossal amount of money(£875m) on players to help realize the dream of annexing their tenth title that has eluded them since 2002. Players like Luis Ronaldo, David Beckham just to mention but a few were all brought in to help realize the dream but all to no avail.

Real Madrid have been losing semifinalists on 4 occasions but luckily, they find themselves in the finals of the competition for the first time since 2002. Unfortunately, they are faced with an arduous task of beating their noisy neighbors (Atlético) to rewrite their name in the highest echelon of club football and become the first club to win the competition for an unprecedented tenth time.

Atlético Madrid (La Liga Champions) on the other hand, has relatively enjoyed some amount of successes on the field of play. They have 10 Spanish Championships, 10 Copa del Rey titles, 2 UEFA Europa League titles, the Cup Winner’s Cup and 2 UEFA Super Cups. Nicknamed ‘Los Colchoneros’ (The Mattressers) possibly derived from their decision to play in a red and white striped shirts because, the same color scheme was used on bed mattresses and the unused cloth was easily converted into football shirts.

Atlético’s achievement in Europe have been modest- this is their second European Cup final since 1974, when they lost in a replay to Uli Hoeneß (Uli Hoeness)  led all conquering Bayern Munich team. Their evolution from Europa League winners to champions’ league contenders under their gaffer, Diego Pablo Simeone has earned them a great deal of respect among the football fraternity.

ROAD TO THE FINALS
REAL MADRID : Paired in a group that had Turkish giants Galatasaray, Danish side FC Copenhagen and Italian powerhouse Juventus, Los Blancos won five times and drew once to win the group with 16 points. They made mincemeat of German outfit Schalke 04 in the round of 16 before escaping Dortmund’s scare to advance to the semifinals where they trounced the defending champions Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate to bring their ‘Décima’ dream to within one match of reality.

ATLETICO MADRID : Making a comeback to the competition after a 45-month absence, during which they won the UEFA Europa Cup twice, Los Colchoneros found themselves in a group that had former champions FC Porto, Russian side FC Zenit St. Petersburg and Austria Wien. The Spanish side had a smooth ride throughout the group phase winning five and drawing one to advance from the group. A spirited performance from Diego Simeone’s side ensured they eliminated AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea to reach the finals of the competition to the dismay of the watching world.

WHO WINS THE MADRID DERBY?(EL DERBI MADRILENO)
Matches involving the two have been tumultuous, controversial and very important to the clubs regardless of the venue and competition; the Lisbon showdown is no exception. The Champions League final will be the 155th meeting of the two sides that stretches way back to 1928 with Atlético winning 36 to Real’s 85 and 33 ending in draws. They have met in European competition before, thus, 1958-1959 European Cup, when their semifinal tie ended 2-2 on aggregate. Real Madrid won the play-off game 2-1 in Zaragoza but had the away goals rule existed back then, Atlético would have gone through and broken Real’s early dominance of the competition.

Following a sprightly run throughout the campaign, The Meringues (Real Madrid) are poised to win the trophy, a feat they last achieved in 2002. Real Madrid are expected to defend very well using a very efficient counter-attack, with passes on the ground, using the speed of the pacey forwards notably Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema and Ángel di María. They are also good at set pieces with Ronaldo being a free-kick specialist and the likes of Pepe and Sergio Ramos endowed with superior aerial prowess. Ronaldo’s scintillating run of form could prove to be very vital to Real should the ‘goal machine’ find his rhythm. Currently, one of the six men to have won the European Cup/Champions League as a player and manager, Carlo Ancelotti is seeking to join the likes of Jose Mourinho, Ernst Happel, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jupp Heynckes to be the only managers to have won the competition with two different clubs. His cool demeanor has won him the support of the playing body, board and the fans of the club unlike his predecessor(Mourinho). The only disappointment for the Italian is the suspension of workaholic midfielder, Xabi Alonso through accumulated cards.

Atlético will go into this game as the underdogs but could thrive in the face of adversity and win the trophy. Diego Simeone has forged a committed and diligent unit capable of disrupting the very big teams as evidenced in this campaign. They are a young tenacious side that plays with grit and determination. Built around star striker Diego Costa, Atlético are undefeated in this season’s competition. Diego Costa’s iconic and meteoric rise to fame is remarkable. A bully of a striker, this could be his last game for Atlético as he is been linked to move to England preferably to Chelsea. Should Diego Costa get the needed support from colleagues Arda Turan, Koke and Gabi and with Simeone at the helm, victory is always possible.

HISTORY FAVORS REAL MADRID
Historically, Real Madrid stands a chance of winning this season’s Champions League as previous occurrences places them above their neighbors. I delved deep into the archives to come out with the following, which tends to place Real Madrid above Atlético.

ANY TEAM WHICH ELIMINATES BAYERN MUNICH FROM THE SEMIFINAL STAGE OF THE EUROPEAN CUP/ UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GOES ON TO WIN THE TROPHY

PROOF
1980/1981
Liverpool 0 vrs Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich 1 vrs Liverpool 1
1989/1990
AC Milan 1 vrs Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich 2 vrs AC Milan 1
1990/1991
Bayern Munich 1 vrs Red Star Belgrade 2
Red Star Belgrade 2 vrs Bayern Munich 2
1994/1995
Ajax 5 vrs Bayern Munich 2
Bayern Munich 0 vrs Ajax 0
1999/2000
Real Madrid 2 vrs Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich 2 vrs Real Madrid 1
2013/2014
Real Madrid 1 vrs Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich 0 vrs Real Madrid 4
Can Real Madrid repeat history to win La Décima?
ANYTIME REAL MADRID ELIMINATE THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS FROM THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, THEY WIN THE TROPHY

PROOF
1997/1998 SEMI FINAL, DORTMUND (Defending Champions)

Real Madrid 2 vrs Dortmund 0
Dortmund 0 vrs Real Madrid 0
1999/2000 QUARTER FINALS, MANCHESTER UNITED (Defending Champions)

Real Madrid 0 vrs Manchester United 0
Manchester United 2 vrs Real Madrid 3
2001/2002 BAYERN MUNICH (Defending Champions)
Bayern Munich 2 vrs Real Madrid 1
Real Madrid 2 vrs Bayern Munich 0
2013/2014 SEMI FINALS, BAYERN MUNICH (Defending Champions)

Real Madrid 1 vrs Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich 0 vrs Real Madrid 4
Has Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid the wherewithal to dent this record?, LISBON DECIDES!!!

With two domestic champions from the same city battling it out on a foreign land to be ‘Kings’ of Europe, this is certainly a match that will whet one’s appetite for football but regardless the outcome, the city of Madrid could be hailed as the city of Champions.

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