On the back of a historic week, Atletico Madrid must mount one final surge to cap off a season which has defied all expectations. Having won the La Liga title just seven days ago, Diego Simeone will lead his side out in a Champions League final against city rivals Real Madrid, who are gunning for their tenth European Cup.
High on confidence from their epic draw at the Nou Camp last week, Atletico go into the final with a number of injuries. Diego Costa has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, one which could potentially stop his participation at the World Cup this summer, whilst Arda Turan is a doubt too. The pair picked up injuries in Barcelona last week but Turan could make the squad for the final.
Carlo Ancelotti faces similar anxiety with injury troubles too as Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe face a struggle to play in their home country. Ronaldo missed the game against Espanyol on Saturday after pulling out of the warm-up after a battle against tendinitis in his knee, but is expected to feature irrespective of his level of fitness. Pepe, along with Karim Benzema, have muscle issues which could sideline them for the final.
One man who will miss the final for Real however is Xabi Alonso. The Spaniard was booked in the semi-final against Bayern and is suspended for Saturday’s game. Asier Illarramendi or Sami Khedira will surely replace Alonso but it was evident how much Real miss him when the midfielder was injured at the start of the season.
The final will be Real’s first chance since 2002 to win the famous trophy, and this one is an important one. If Real are successful, they will lift their tenth title – ‘La Decima’ – their most sought after of them all. Winning the tenth has been an obsession since the Galactico era, and to do it against their city rivals would be perfect.
Equally, the motivation is there for Atletico to thwart their illustrious opponents and win their first Champions League trophy ever. Irrespective of the result, a defeat would do nothing to quash what has been a spectacular season for all involved with Atletico Madrid.
Simeone prepares his team to go out full of character and belief, and Atleti will not be lacking in any of that on Saturday, having got the better of Real in the league this season.
A 1-0 win at the Bernabeu gave Atletico the advantage on the head-to-head rankings until the final few games when Real tailed off in the title hunt, and a 2-2 draw at the Vicente Calderon proved the win was not just a freak occurrence. Despite defeat in the Copa del Rey, Atletico beat Real in the last final these two met in – the Copa del Rey final last season.
Played at the Bernabeu, where Atletico had not won for 16 years, Simeone led his side to another trophy and will surely use this example as motivation for Saturday.
It will be a fascinating encounter between two massive and contrasting rivals, with both teams expected to live up to the big occasion. Don’t miss La Liga Blog’s live coverage of the final on here and on twitter!
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