Champions League Final 2014: Early Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid Preview

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 02: Cristiano Ronaldo (R) of Real Madrid CF competes for the ball with Gabi Fernandez (L) of Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 2, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Two fierce city rivals contesting a major prize is the perfect way for the 2014 UEFA Champions League campaign to end. Atletico Madrid's hostilities with Real Madrid have been renewed with full intensity in recent seasons, thanks to the former's ascendancy into a trophy-winning force.

Manager Diego Simeone has crafted a team that captured this season's La Liga title. That came one year after besting Real in the Copa del Rey final, as well as winning the UEFA Europa League in 2012.

But now Simeone's boys are vying for the title Los Blancos covet most. Real president Florentino Perez craves Les Decima, a 10th European Cup. It is a "fixation," according to James Riach of The Observer, via The Guardian.

With such a prestigious prize at stake, combined with local animosity, a classic is brewing in Lisbon.


When: Saturday, May 24

Time: 20:45 CET, 7:45 p.m. BST

Venue: Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica

Information via


How each team booked their place in the final

Both Madrid teams played spoiler in memorable semi-final clashes. Atletico went to Chelsea and beat Jose Mourinho's team, the Mourinho way.

Simeone set his squad up to absorb pressure and strike with ruthless efficiency on the break. After a 0-0 snooze fest in Madrid, Atletico lit up the Stamford Bridge scoreboard with three goals.

Adrian Lopez, Diego Costa and Arda Turan decisively found the net to win the tie 3-1. It was a clinic on how to win away in Europe's premier club competition.

But if Atletico were steady and efficient on their travels, Real were simply awesome. Carlo Ancelotti's squad arrived at the home of Champions League holders Bayern Munich, owning a slender one-goal advantage.

By half-time they had stretched it to 4-0, following a breathtaking display of quality combination passing on the break. While Atletico used their craft, patience and strength to conquer the Bridge, Los Blancos used stunning speed and creative daring.

Cristiano Ronaldo's fiendishly swift goal, Madrid's third out of four on the night, was the best example.

Ancelotti's team left Bayern's daunting Allianz Arena with a five-goal aggregate triumph. Fans from both sides of Madrid have no doubt debated whose semi-final win made the biggest statement.



The good news is that neither Simeone nor Ancelotti is afraid to push his resources forward, albeit in different ways. In a refreshing deviation from the current modern trends of packed midfields and front threes, Simeone often opts for a 4-4-1-1 look.

He will let his front two rotate positions at will. The same is true of his wide players, who have license to roam into the middle, allowing Atletico to outnumber the opposition centrally when needed.

Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone will engage in a fascinating tactical battle in Lisbon.
Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone will engage in a fascinating tactical battle in Lisbon.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Ancelotti's team structure is just as fluid. He has moved from his preferred 4-1-2-1-2 and Christmas Tree looks to a very loose and flexible 4-3-3.

That has allowed wide forwards Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to flourish. It has also challenged centre-forward Karim Benzema and converted winger Angel di Maria to be more creative, a challenge both have mastered.

Each player has provided five assists in this season's tournament. That is good for joint-second in the competition, per figures from

Whichever manager can surprise the other will likely key his respective team's victory.


Atletico have had the edge in recent meetings

It's worth noting that Simeone has had the jinx over Real in recent meetings. In fact, Atletico have lost just two of their last six encounters with their more decorated neighbours.

That mini-run includes the 2-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu that won the Copa del Rey. Simeone repeated that trick by helping engineer a 1-0 La Liga success at the home of Real in late September 2013.

Reporting for The Observer, via The Guardian, Sid Lowe noted how Atletico managed to stifle Real's creativity while still expressing themselves:

"Di María's in-swinging balls, left footed from the right, were Real's one resource and a limited one at that. Atlético, meanwhile, were growing comfortable. This is a team that plays with a clarity of purpose that is startling at times. The confidence is there too."

The CL final will be a test of how much Ancelotti has learned since.