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Real Madrid-Atlético Madrid: a final to rewrite history

AS AS 24/05/2014 Juanma Trueba
Madrid v Atleti © Proporcionado por AS Madrid v Atleti

Warning: the text you’re about to read isn’t worthy of this final. That’s simply impossible. Readers, you aren’t worthy of it either, unless you manage the Angel’s Jump from Lisbon’s 25th of April Bridge into the Atlantic – something not to be recommended, the sea’s choppy. The final is bigger than any of us anyway. There’s nothing like it, nor words to describe it. They’re all worn out: passion, drama, epic, emotion, madness... It would be unforgiveable to dress this game up as something it's not. This is different. Keep reading, if you don’t believe me.

The first fact is breath-taking: whoever loses tonight won’t have a chance of revenge in the next edition. At least not in the next 58 years, the time it’s taken for Real Madrid and Atlético to come head to head in the final of what was the European Cup, now the Champions League. From that point of view, it’s not just the Cup that’s at stake today, be it Décima or Primera. Today is the basis of every argument between Madrid and Atleti fans for the next half century, no matter what happens in the next 1,000 derbies: “Aye, but we won in Lisbon”.

That threat though, so serious for the fans, doesn’t affect the players. They don’t bump into their rival neighbours in the stairwell, or have to put up with opposing fans in the office or the supermarket. Their pressure comes from inside. Quieter, but equally turbulent. The basic emotion is the same: the desire to win, which is only equalled by the fear of losing. Readers, meet desire and fear, the two most important players today. Both are starting, but we don’t know for which side yet.

And after those two, the footballers of flesh and placenta. First up Diego Costa. We await confirmation of his miraculous recovery, but yesterday he completed a training session for the cameras, an incredible performance that left those watching open mouthed: flying starts, sprints, knocks and he even had a tantrum. That is, he’s in fine form. For the match, or for an Oscar. Arda, more discreet, also trained with no problems. Whether they play or not, they’ve done their job: raising Ancelotti’s eyebrows.

Madrid responded to the fervour of Atleti’s training session with their own weapons: Gento, Amancio, Raúl, Mijatovic, Hierro, and briefly, Zidane. All of them were wheeled out with the healthy aim of motivating and inspiring; showing what’s possible, nine European Cups, more silver than the mine at Potosí. We could say they came out to show off their medals. The secrets were held back. Cristiano looked impeccable, Benzema cautious, Pepe showed little. Mysteries that will be revealed today.

So, predictions. On experience Madrid win; on tension they lose. Atleti win on collective solidity; for individual talent they lose. You could play that game for ever, but it wouldn’t get us anywhere. Tactics are clearer – there’ll be an almighty midfield battle, with particular pressure on Illarramendi who is, in theory, Madrid’s weakest piece. The first winner will be declared there, who knows who’ll take the title.

Take care of yourself

The Spanish Heart Association recommends you don’t drink, smok, eat copiously or allow your emotions to get the better of you. And keep your mouth shut in case your heart tries to escape. Try humming your club’s anthem.

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