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Neither Pep nor Mou – it’s Madrid vs Atlético

AS AS 01/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

What a final we have in store! For the first time in history, the European Cup final will be contested by two teams from the same city and as luck would have it, the event will be held in the capital city of our neighbours, Portugal. Atlético set up the perfect final after emerging as the superior side in their return leg at Stamford Bridge with yet another display of the virtues which have enabled them to get this far –team effort, organization, inspiration, a well-work strategy, a great keeper and all as one in carrying out the coach’s tactical plan. And they did so after the tie turned against them after Torres’ opener – a strike which he had to contain himself from celebrating. It’s only in very extreme circumstances that I can fully understand why players refrain from celebrating after scoring.

And so Atlético were left with a mountain to climb – they were trailing in the tie and Mourinho had the game exactly where he wanted. But Simeone’s troops have belief and stockpile their best football for the most testing situations. A move instigated by Juanfran produced Atlético’s first goal on the stroke of half-time and the full-back played a role in the third; sandwiched between the two – a penalty committed by Eto’o on Diego Costa. Piling too many bodies in the penalty area can produce these consequences. Both before and after that, Atlético looked secure against a Chelsea side who transposed their efforts into a handful of attempts – all expertly saved by Courtois, what a great goalkeeper he is!

So, neither Pep Guardiola nor Mourinho have managed to guide their teams to the final. We spent three years perhaps over-distracted by the personalities of these two coaches (me included). The strength of Spanish football in these two semi-finals has left them on the curb and later this evening, either Valencia or Sevilla, will become Spain’s third representative in a European final. The Champions League final, an all-Madrid affair, is one to whet the appetite. Both teams have got there on virtue of their own merits, and shone while winning their respective return legs away from home – against Pep and Mou. Real Madrid and Atlético will contest European football’s elite club tournament, in Lisbon on May 24.

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