Recent rout of Real boosts Atletico’s hopes
Recent rout of Real boosts Atletico’s hopes: Atletico Madrid have built a reputation for gargantuan achievements under coach Diego Simeone and have not given up hope of a remarkable turnaround against Real Madrid in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg.
Atletico need to overturn a 3-0 loss from the first leg, but it wasn’t too long ago that fans at the Vicente Calderon Stadium witnessed the type of feat that can put Atletico in the final and avoid losing to Real for the fourth straight season in Europe’s premier club competition.
It was on a Saturday afternoon in February 2015 that Atletico had one of its greatest victories over Real, a 4-0 rout in La Liga.
That was Atletico’s only win over Real by a difference of three goals in the last four decades, but it’s what has been giving many fans and players some hope ahead of the team’s difficult task at the Calderon.
“It’s very difficult to overturn this result but we will keep believing until the end because that’s our mentality and we will be playing with our fans behind us,” Atletico defender Stefan Savic said.
Real thrashed Granada 4-0 on Saturday despite Zinedine Zidane making nine changes from the team that beat Atletico so convincingly, while Simeone only rested one player in his side’s 1-0 victory over Eibar.
With Real feeling fresher and their confidence soaring as they remain on track to win the domestic title, all signs point to the 11-times European champions piling more misery on their neighbours who they beat in the 2014 and 2016 finals and also the 2015 quarter-finals.
Simeone, however, offered a typically defiant message ahead of the second leg, alluding to his side’s remarkable title win in 2014 and their Champions League successes over the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
“On Wednesday we have an extremely difficult game which for some would be impossible, but not for us,” Simeone told reporters. “After the last game I told the players it was very tough, that we’re facing the best team in the world that scores in every game but we can do it. I’m convinced we can, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t say so.”
Even by their standards Real are on the verge of completing the most glorious season in the club’s decorated history.
Zidane’s men are three games away from a first league title in five years and, should they complete a La Liga and Champions League double, it will be Real’s first since 1957/58.
Moreover, they could become the first side in the Champions League era to retain the trophy.
And captain Sergio Ramos insisted he is relishing a challenging end to the campaign rather than wilting under the pressure.
“There is no feeling of vertigo,” said Ramos on Tuesday. “The contrary, it is in our own hands. The good part of the season is coming, there are two weeks left and we’ll see what happens in the end. I would settle to be in this position every year.”
Despite his stellar record since taking charge of Real 17 months ago, Zidane has been evasive over his future in recent weeks.
However, the Frenchman believes even if Real ended up missing out on both La Liga and the Champions League, it would be unfair to categorise their season as a failure.
“After eight or nine months the players have worked with incredible professionalism, but we have to keep showing that every three days.
“Until now we have done well, but we have to show it again tomorrow and on Sunday. An injustice or a failure is not giving your all, and we are giving everything we have.”
Real players can expect a fiery reception at the Calderon on what promises to be an emotional occasion. Wednesday’s clash will be the final European game at the 51-year-old stadium because Atletico move to the new 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano next season.
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