Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid matches has more meaning attached to it than any other rivalry as both clubs were formed out of ideological differences. Surprisingly, both these clubs were formed by people not from Madrid as Real was formed in 1902 by students of Oxford and Cambridge and it was formed with the sole aim of the promotion of the footballing culture in the heartland of Madrid as Spain was not reunited at the time.
Atletico, on the other hand, came into existence when a number of Basque students came together with local brewers and workers to form the club a year later in 1903. Both the clubs had contrasting histories to their fate as Real Madrid enjoyed a successful period since the 1950s and became one of the most successful clubs in the world. Real’s success brought in a lot of money for them which resulted in a one-sided affair in the Madrid derby for a long time.
Santiago Bernabeu, home of the reigning European champions is situated alongside banks and businesses on the upper-class street, whereas Vicente Calderon is structured near a brewery along the Manzanares river. Real obviously has a stronger backing than the Rojiblancos as a result of their immense success in Spain and Europe while Atletico's major fan base comes from working class or labour based fan following.
These cultural differences between the two sides go as long ago as the early Franco era; it was Atletico who had the support of the regime as a result of their association with the air force. After Real started winning trophies in the 1950s, Franco's affiliation shifted towards Real as he wanted to make them the political capital of his reign. As a result of this favouritism, Atletico fans created a chant for Real, "el equipo del gobierno, la vergüenza del país" — the team of the government, the shame of the country.
Historically, it has been observed that Real are the more established club than their rivals whereas Atletico are considered a sort of a revolutionary club. After the Spanish Civil war, the government treated the clubs differently and gave Real greater respect due to the trophies they had won, which infuriated the Atletico supporters as they saw it as a partial move by the government.
The matches have started to become more closely contested since the arrival of Diego Simeone as manager of Atletico Madrid with the Rojiblancos having the upper hand against their bitter rivals in recent seasons. Atletico are unbeaten in their last six league games against Real which is their highest ever unbeaten run. Atletico have also not been beaten at the Calderon in their last 22 league games with tonight's derby being the last one held at Vicente Calderon.
The Madrid derby has seen some memorable encounters over its long history with the two teams competing in two Champions League finals recently. Another great encounter was in 2013 when Atletico finally broke their Bernabeu hoodoo and won the Copa Del Rey final against Real.
One such encounter which stands as a special one between the two is the league game in 1996-97 season where a certain Raul Gonzalez Blanco, the 19-year-old homegrown talent of Real, took the game by the scruff of its neck and turned the tide in Real's favour. The game had added importance as Real were fighting for the league title with Barcelona whereas Atletico were the current double holders.
As a 14-year-old, Raul was released by Atletico Madrid in 1992 and deemed not good enough for the team. Within five years of his exit from Atletico, the young Spanish sensation was back to haunt his youth side as he did on many occasions and establish himself as one of Real Madrid's greats.
The decisions of then club president Jesus Gil were paying dividends to some extent as Atletico won a double in the 95-96 season but his short term thinking led to a change of power in Madrid for the next decade or so. Then came the Madrid derby of January 97 where the Rojiblancos started brilliantly and went ahead with Real receiving a red card to make matters worse.
Then stepped the 19-year-old forward Raul who tormented Atletico's defence to a great extent. He scored a brilliant brace to give Real a much-needed lead with teammate Clarence Seedorf adding the third to gain all three points for Los Blancos. Raul also scored a double when the two sides met at the Bernabeu later in that season which guaranteed Real's title win over FC Barcelona.
In 1994, Raul's first Madrid derby was also a special one as the then 17-year-old was given a surprise start and he delivered on the manager's expectations to the tee. He scored a delightful left foot finish and also produced two assists in a 4-2 victory over their rivals.
Raul has always been associated as a fast, incisive and relentless player who until 2002 was a player in the ilk of Luis Suarez. An injury in 2002 hampered his pace but the Real legend, who made the no.7 shirt one of the most prized jerseys in club football, adjusted according to his physical conditions really well. Raul won six league titles, three European Cups and is Real Madrid's top scorer in the Champions League and scored 323 goals in 741 games for the Bernabeu side.
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The Madrid derby has always been a close part of Raul's life as he once said, “They are such special games for so many reasons: that cross-city rivalry, what it means to fans, the importance of winning or losing and having everyone talk about it for days afterwards. That is the beautiful yet harsh reality of football. We all knew that those games were more than just a win and three points in the league.”
With tonight being the last Madrid derby ever to played at the iconic Vicente Calderon, fireworks are expected when the two great rivals take centre stage to regain 'the Madrid supremacy'.