By Ayomide Oriade
Spanish football blazed the trail in the UEFA Champions League when it produced the first finalists from the same country; Real Madrid versus Valencia in the year 2000 final. Tomorrow night will also mark another groundbreaking height for Spanish football when Madrid trade tackles with Atletico in what will be the first derby final in Champions League history.
Madrid will be out to win the much craved La Decima- their 10th triumph in the continent’s showpiece competition. The last time they won the trophy was in 2002, when they defeated (first time finalists) Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park courtesy of Zinedine Zidane’s sumptuous volley.
According to the current World Footballer of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Lisbon final “Is a moment that all Madridistas are dreaming about – the decima. It is a trophy we have been looking to win for many years. Real Madrid have wanted it for a long time. Since the first day we came here, we’ve felt that positive pressure to win the Champions League. We feel like we are now one small step away from winning,” he said.
Real Madrid boasts a record of nine wins in nine Champions League finals but are up against Diego Simeone’s men, who are the only unbeaten team in this year’s competition.
Atletico stand on the brink of an unlikely double after claiming the Laliga title on the final day at Camp Nou and would be out to make the most of their first appearance in the Champions League Final.
Victory for Madrid will earn Carlo Anceloti his third Champions League trophy as a manager, having won it with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007. He also won it twice as a player with the club. Diego Simeone won the UEFA Europa League with Atletico in 2010 and masterminded an European Super Cup Victory over Chelsea the same year. Atletico’s victory tomorrow will give him his first Champions League medal as a Manager but he never won it as a player.
Talks in the build-up to this mouthwatering Madrid derby has however been dominated by the fitness and availability of both clubs’ star names. Atletico’s dangerous weapon, Diego Costa, faces a late fitness test ahead of the biggest match of his career while Real Madrid are also sweating on the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo who has notched in 16 goals in the competition this season. Influential midfielder, Arda Turan is a doubt for Atletico while Madrid Striker Karim Benzema is also struggling with knee injury.
Both teams have met four times this season. Atletico edged Madrid in the league; winning 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu and drawing the home fixture 2-2. Madrid got their pound of flesh by beating Atletico home and away enroute their Copa del Rey Victory over Barca in the final.
For the fifth time this season, the ultimate prize in club football has pitched these local rivals against each other. The trophy will definitely be going to Madrid, but 90 and if possible 120 minutes will decide which half of Madrid. Lisbon is the Venue, Spanish football is the product, May 24th is the date, 7:45 pm is the time.