Having dispatched Bayern Munich so convincingly in their Champions League semi-final, Real Madrid will go into the final of the competition as favourites to lift the trophy. However, their city rivals Atletico pose a very real threat and for many reasons should be considered favourites to become champions of Europe.
First and foremost is the recent head-to-head record between the two sides from the Spanish capital. Atleti began an impressive run against their rivals by claiming the Copa del Rey last year. This not only proved they could defeat their neighbours, but they could do it in a cup final with huge pressure on both teams.
Since then they have not looked back. An extremely rare victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, followed by a 2-2 draw at home, has well and truly given the fans wearing red and white the bragging rights in Madrid.
It is these two results that have helped Atletico to the top of La Liga, where they currently sit four points clear of Barcelona and six points clear of Real. They have won nine games in a row in the league and have conceded just one goal in that period of time, per soccerway.com.
In short, their form is tremendous and even the mighty Real Madrid have not been able to put a stop to the rampant force of Diego Simeone’s side when given the chance.
It also has to be remembered that Atletico are yet to lose in the Champions League this season, whilst Real have suffered defeat. Carlo Ancelotti’s men travelled to Borussia Dortmund with a 3-0 advantage and almost conspired to toss it away as they lost 2-0 in Germany. Atletico have suffered no such lapses of concentration en route to the final.
With this in mind it may be that the single-legged nature of the final suits Atleti just that little bit more. No one has been able to turn them over, whilst Dortmund showed what can be done to Real by putting them under pressure over 90 minutes.
Also working in the favour of the underdogs will be the absence of midfield lynchpin Xabi Alonso from the Real side. The Spain international picked up a ridiculous booking against Bayern to get himself suspended for the final and his side could seriously miss him.
It is unclear as to who is set to replace him but it could be Sami Khedira, who has not played since November, as per realmadridnews.com. If the German were to be thrown into the firing line after such a long spell out, against the likes of Arda Turan and Koke, then he could be found wanting on such a big stage.
Of course, the star names in the Real side will ensure that the bookmakers favour them over their local rivals. With Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo in full flow, they are certainly a fearsome prospect. However, there are plenty of reasons to suggest it will be the lesser lights of Atletico celebrating in Lisbon.