It is nearly three months until the Copa Del Rey final, but when May 18 finally arrives, the showdown between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will be a thrilling contest.
Atletico moved past Sevilla in one semifinal, while Madrid knocked off Barcelona in the other. There will be many storylines that will build before the domestic tournament comes to a close.
While Real Madrid is clearly the more talented team, Atletico has fared better in La Liga. Even if Los Blancos fail to take over the second position, Atletico will still be the underdogs in this contest.
Here are the keys to pulling off an upset.
Feed Radamel Falcao
Cristiano Ronaldo will be the best player on the pitch in this matchup, but Falcao will be a not-too-distant second. The Columbian international is arguably the best pure striker in the world.
His name has been a fixture in transfer rumors this season, and there is a chance that this will be one of his final matches in an Atletico jersey. All the European giants will be interested this summer, and Falcao would do well for himself and his current club with a fine performance in this match.
He is a supremely talented goalscorer with the ability to finish with either foot, in addition to being an aerial threat. He has 21 league goals this season, while no other Atletico player has totaled more than four.
If Falcao does not get his name on the scoresheet in this match, Atletico has no chance at victory. The team would be wise to get him as many opportunities as possible.
Contain Cristiano Ronaldo
If Madrid’s superstar winger is able to have as much success as he did when he last faced Atletico, there will be no upset in this match.
Ronaldo had a goal and an assist and led his team to a 2-0 victory over Atletico in a La Liga match in December. He was unlucky not to have scored multiple times, as two of his shots rang off the post.
He completely dominated that match, and Atletico must adjust their tactics in order to reduce his impact on the contest. Right-back Juanfran will have to be cautious when going forward, and centre-back Miranda will have to be constantly vigilant when Ronaldo tries to cut inside.
If Madrid’s superstar is allowed space in this match, even a fantastic performance from Falcao likely will not be enough for an upset victory.
Hope Real Madrid Reaches the Champions League Final
Unfortunately for Atletico, if both these teams play their best football, Madrid will win this contest.
A season without winning a trophy is not tolerated at a club like Real Madrid. If Jose Mourinho is unable to lead his side to the Champions League final, the Copa Del Rey will be his only shot at hardware as Barcelona has a nearly insurmountable lead atop the league table.
If Madrid finds itself in a position where a La Liga title is out of reach and its European campaign is over, the club will put its best 11 on the field and will be supremely motivated to get the result.
But the Champions League final is scheduled for May 25, and if the most important match of the season is weighing on the Madrid players’ minds, the team may be distracted. This will open the door for Atletico.