Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned

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    Real Madrid completed a spectacular comeback to defeat Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the Champions League final in Lisbon, Portugal, on Saturday night.

    A headed goal in stoppage time from Sergio Ramos dramatically forced the match to extra time, where Carlo Ancelotti's powerful side overran their gallant opponents.

    Gareth Bale put Los Blancos ahead in the second period of added time, nodding home from close range after Thibaut Courtois pushed away a shot from Angel di Maria.

    Further goals from Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo sealed the result, successfully ending Real Madrid's quest for La Decima—a 10th European crown.

    Across the following slides we examine six things we learned from the gripping clash at Estadio da Luz.

Horse Placenta Treatment Doesn't Perform Miracles

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    Hamstring strains aren't one-week injuries. They really aren't.

    But Diego Costa attempted to defy science this week by visiting Belgrade to see "medical miracle worker" Marijana Kovacevic, as reported by ESPN FC.

    Rather radically, the doctor is said to use an ointment made of horse placenta in conjunction with electric shocks to treat injuries such as Costa's Grade 1 hamstring tear suffered during Atletico's title-clinching draw at Barcelona last weekend.

    Yet, despite the extreme measures taken, the prolific striker left the field after just nine minutes. In that brief time, his movements appeared more laboured than normal, making it clear he was still suffering the effects of the thigh injury.

    Of course, reports of "miracle workers" for injuries should always be taken with a pinch of salt. And Costa's quick removal showed us that Kovacevic's horse placenta treatment doesn't possess magical powers.

    Hamstring strains just aren't one-week injuries. And Costa's exit seriously hampered his team's performance on Saturday night. 

Underdone Players Are Liabilities in Big Matches

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    Sami Khedira has missed the vast majority of the 2013-14 season through injury. In Lisbon on Saturday night, it showed.

    Against Atletico's robust midfield of Tiago and Gabi, the underdone Germany international was completely ineffective and unable to provide Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale with the slick service that was required.

    That all changed when Carlo Ancelotti inserted Isco into Khedira's midfield position. The 22-year-old Spaniard immediately gave Real Madrid more fluency with his sharp passing and constant movement, which saw Los Blancos create significantly more scoring chances.

    The substitution illustrated the problems that face players in big matches after significant injury layoffs. 

    Ideally, Ancelotti would have preferred to deploy the suspended Xabi Alonso instead of Khedira, but the manager was forced to use the underdone German to provide experience and composure in midfield.

    It must be remembered that the 27-year-old has been a fine servant for his club. But, due to a lack of match fitness and playing time, Khedira became the faulty piece in the Real Madrid machine on Saturday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo Was Far from Fully Fit

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Carlo Ancelotti insisted that Cristiano Ronaldo was fully fit for Saturday night's match. According to Sky Sports, the Real Madrid boss said, "Cristiano is fine and has no problem" when asked about the superstar's fitness on Friday.

    But it was clear that Ronaldo was hampered to a certain extent by his most recent complaint in a series of muscular issues.

    On a number of occasions, the Portuguese phenomenon failed to glide past his opponents in the way that his usually powerful running typically allows him to do. A number of free-kicks taken by him also lacked the force one normally associates with his famous set-piece abilities.

    A lack of cohesion and fluency from his midfield teammates stifled Ronaldo's chances to impact the game for much of the night. And although he did manage to find the back of the net after being awarded a late penalty, his performance in the final of Europe's grandest competition was far from one of his finest. 

Atletico Have Simply Run out of Steam

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    It has been evident for weeks. But amid Atletico's incredible capture of the 2013-14 La Liga title, it's been glossed over that Diego Simeone's side haven't won a match for almost a month since defeating Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals. 

    The brilliant organisation of the team has been ever-present, but the grinding nature of their methods has taken a toll on Los Rojiblancos. Their legs are shot. Fuel tanks are empty. Once Saturday night's game reached extra time, Simeone's soldiers had nothing left to give.

    There will be those who argue that's just the way they playthat the attritional warfare conducted by Atletico is the norm. But you only need to rewind to November to note that they were racking up hauls of four goals or more—seven on one occasion, versus Getafe—to remember that this team has attacking firepower in it. It's not all about compact defending.

    But with a small squad and arduous runs in both the league and Europe, the gloriously disciplined Atletico outfit ran into the ground. Saturday night was one hurdle too many for Simeone's chargers.

Angel Di Maria Is Worthy of His £45 Million Price Tag

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    Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

    Real Madrid have slapped a £45 million price tag on Angel di Maria, as reported by Metroas clubs such as Arsenal look to acquire the Argentine's services.

    Such an exorbitant figure seems expensive for a winger and midfield player, but his superb showing in the Champions League final—which continued his impressive season in an adjusted role—justified that large figure.

    With Cristiano Ronaldo subdued, Karim Benzema unsighted and Gareth Bale misfiring for much of the night, Di Maria shouldered a considerable portion of attacking duties from his position on the left of midfield.

    On countless occasions, the swift 26-year-old scorched his way through the strong Atletico defence and played a leading role in Bale's go-ahead goal after forcing a save from Thibaut Courtois.

    Numbers-wise, Di Maria racked up 126 touches and beat opponents off the dribble six times, according to WhoScored.com.

    The brilliant performance illustrated his importance to Real Madrid and, in the process, made the rationale for such a heavy price tag evident.

Carlo Ancelotti Can Match Vicente Del Bosque's Real Madrid Record

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    It's possible that Carlo Ancelotti was just minutes from losing his position when Real Madrid were trailing 1-0 as stoppage time arrived.

    Such is the impulsive unpredictability of club president Florentino Perez that the Italian would likely—and unjustifiablyhave been under immense pressure if Los Blancos fell to defeat on Saturday night.

    Instead, Ancelotti now stands as the only manager in history to own three Champions League crowns, per Goal.

    Now, the 54-year-old has the chance to drive Real Madrid to the levels reached at the turn of the century under Vicente del Bosque.

    There are certainly parallels in terms of approach between the two men. Like Del Bosque, the Italian has used a composed and team-first mentality to get the best of out his side while superbly managing the plethora of big egos that exist within the dressing room.

    His calmness also appears to have galvanised the squad, after the more turbulent times that were routinely reported during Jose Mourinho's tenure at the club.

    Del Bosque, of course, led Real Madrid to their most prosperous period in the modern era between 1999 and 2003, claiming two league titles and two Champions League crowns.

    After a Champions League and Copa del Rey double in his first season, Ancelotti could be on course to match the famous Spaniard.