The omens favour Real Madrid
Next month’s football World Cup in Brazil may be making all the noises at the moment, but all the world’s attention will be focused on Lisbon this evening. It’s the time when sports aficionados pay homage to the sporting world’s greatest annual spectacle – the Champions League Final, which will be contested tonight for the very first time by two teams from one city – the Los Rojiblancos (meaning The Red-and-Whites) of Atletico Madrid against Los Blancos (The Whites) of Real Madrid.
It’s a cracker of a game that will feature the competition’s best defence (Atletico’s) against the supreme attacking prowess of Real Madrid; a contest of contrasting styles – the teamwork of Atletico against the individual brilliance of the Galacticos or superstars of Real Madrid. Both teams will be missing key players, Diego Costa and Arda Turan for Atletico and Xabi Alonso and possibly Benzema for Real. While Real Madrid’s attacking trident of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo (now labelled the BBC) have astonished everyone with their scintillating performances for Real in this season’s Champions League.
Diego Simeone’s unrelenting squad, on the other hand have shown that they are the epitome of teamwork. Like Borussia Dortmund, they are a well-knit unit, who fight for each other and the team. They are the rather unassuming cogs of the wheel that is Atletico Madrid.
Just like ‘The Three Musketeers’ in Alexander Dumas’s novel of the same name, the motto of Atletico Madrid players and manager is ‘all for one and one for all.’ This philosophy was aptly put into words by Atletico goalkeeper Courtois when he recently admitted his team had no ‘star players.’
Meanwhile, as is the norm before every final in any sport, the experts and media are rife with analysis about the outcome of this game. Some believe Atletico are the flavour of the month and could therefore ride on their current wave of success to clinch another title. While others believe the time has finally come for Real Madrid to lift their 10th European title (The Decima) that they have been waiting for over a decade.
However, the omens clearly favour Real Madrid, who have a good record against their fellow Spaniards in this competition. Real and Atletico have crossed swords only once in Europe, in the 1958-59 European Cup semi-final, which the former won before going on to win their fourth European Cup in the heydays of the club icons, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás.
Besides, the last time there was an all-Spanish final in the year 2000, Real Madrid ran out comfortable winners beating Valencia comprehensively by three goals.
Real Madrid won their treble of Champions League trophies in 1998, 2000 and 2002. Perhaps, it is a clear indication that lady luck seems to smile on Real each time they reach a Champions League final in a World Cup year (1998, 2002) or the when there’s another major football tournament, such as the European Championships in 2000.
At the same time, Atletico Madrid lost their only previous European final to Bayern Munich in a World Cup year in 1974.
Nevertheless, for the perfectionists, Atletico are the deserving candidates to win the competition, as they are the only team that has stayed unbeaten in the tournament.
No team will be happy to lose. Yet, Atletico will feel their season is still a success having clinched the La Liga from under the nose of their mighty domestic rivals and their unexpected journey to the Champions League final will still be counted as a success.
Whereas, defeat in tonight’s final is unthinkable for Real Madrid, a club obsessed with winning their tenth Champions League crown. A loss tonight would be a disaster, and all the good work done hitherto by their manager Carlo Ancelotti would come to nothing. Ancelotti is well aware of this, the reason why he seems to be more focused on the Champions League final then on winning the Spanish League.
Hence, as time runs down millions wait with bated breath for this extravaganza to begin.