Newly crowned Spanish champions Atletico Madrid will have a chance to bag a 2013-14 double on Saturday when they take on city rivals Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon.
The Atleti have already enjoyed a fantastic year, winning their first La Liga title since 1995-96, but no victory perhaps would taste sweeter than the one that would prevent Real from finally capturing their elusive 10th European Cup or Champions League title.
Los Blancos have been looking for La Decima since 2002 and will be playing in their very first final in 12 years, facing off against a team that has never won the competition. Regardless of the result, history will be made on Saturday, and millions of people will be tuning in to watch it happen.
Date: Saturday, May 24
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
TV Info and Live Stream: The match will be broadcast on ITV and Sky Sports 1 in the United Kingdom and Fox Sports in the United States, with mobile coverage available via the ITV Player, Sky Go app and Fox Soccer 2 Go.
Two Highly Motivated Sides
Much has been made about Real's obsession with La Decima in the last few weeks and, ahead of Saturday's final, BBC's Andy West explains why a victory over Atletico would completely wipe away the memories of a 2013-14 La Liga campaign that ended in disappointment:
The only thing that counts is whether Ancelotti can finally end his club's long wait for their 10th European crown; if he doesn't, his work over the course of the campaign will be forgotten and his job, seemingly so secure less than a month ago, will come under threat.
This drastic, disproportionate state of affairs derives from Real Madrid's utter obsession with success on the European stage.
It is a long-held mentality which was sparked by their initial emphatic success on the continent, winning the first five European Cups after the competition was inaugurated in 1955. Those triumphs allowed Real to foster feelings of superiority over the rest of Europe and especially their bitter rivals Barcelona, whose first trophy did not come until 1992.
Los Blancos aren't just a football team—they're a global brand, one that has been built on success and the constant presence of some the world's greatest players.
Fans of the club will tell you Real are the best team in the world, with the largest fanbase and more history than any other club in existence. But not winning a Champions League trophy in 12 years isn't indicative of the world's greatest team.
Real need more than just a win in the Copa del Rey to make the 2013-14 season worthwhile, and a 10th European Cup would more than do the trick.
Their opponents Atletico thoroughly shook up the balance of power in La Liga in the past season, avoiding defeat against both Real and Barcelona in league competition on their way to the first Spanish title not won by those two teams since 2004.
Losing Diego Costa and Arda Turan early in the title-decider against Barcelona, Diego Simeone showed the world his team could handle adversity as well as anybody. Even without two of their main stars, they were hardly bothered by the Blaugrana.
Credit Atletico's organisation, the belief in their manager or the kind of drive that comes with not winning anything in years, but the team just looked more hungry all season long, and the La Liga title was well-deserved.
According to Sergi Dominguez, Costa surprisingly joined his teammates for training on Thursday, and he could still be available for selection:
The Spanish international may risk his health ahead of next month's World Cup by playing on Saturday, but the Champions League final could also be his last chance to wear the Atleti shirt, as shared by beIN SPORTS USA:
With 35 goals in the 2013-14 season, per WhoScored.com, it's fairly obvious Costa would greatly boost his team's chances at defeating Real.
Los Blancos will be without the suspended Xabi Alonso and the injured Jese, who both travel with the club for support, according to AS via Realmadridplace:
Asier Illarramendi is expected to replace the former in midfield, and while the midfielder is a close match to Alonso in terms of talent, the gap in experience is wide.
Marca's Pablo Polo reports Karim Benzema is convinced he'll recover from a groin injury in time to start on Saturday, and SocialRMadrid shared this picture, showing Cristiano Ronaldo training with the team ahead of their trip to Lisbon:
Like Benzema, the Portuguese superstar is sure he'll be ready in time for Saturday, via the club's Twitter account:
Carlo Ancelotti's biggest question marks are the aforementioned Benzema and Pepe, the latter of whom looks likely to miss the final, via the club's official Twitter account:
Should Pepe be unable to return to health in time, Raphael Varane would be expected to start in the centre of the defence. While the youngster enjoyed a tremendous breakout campaign last season, a match of this magnitude against one of the world's top strikers in Costa could prove to be too much to handle.
Atletico have yet to lose in the Champions League this year, while Real showed the world they meant business when they crushed defending champions Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate.
Both teams match extremely well, and should Costa be fit for kick-off, injury concerns on either side would be minimal.
Los Blancos might have a slight edge in fitness, as Carlo Ancelotti could rest one or two of his starters in the last few weeks while Atletico chased the Spanish title. But at the end of a long season, every single player on the pitch has tired legs.
Final Prediction: Real 1-1 Atletico, Los Blancos finally win their 10th European title in extra time.
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