What a week it was in the Champions League.
For the second year in a row, and the third time since 2008, the Champions League Final will be contested by teams from the same league. What makes the 2014 final extra special, it will mark the first time in the history of the tournament that both teams will come from the same city.
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will meet Saturday, May 24, in Lisbon Portugal, to determine if Atletico can bring home its first title, after losing in the old European Cup Final in 1974, or whether Real can win La Decima, or 10th, title in its storied history.
Real Madrid is making its first appearance in the final since 2002, which in itself is amazing if one looks at the amount of money spent and the talent that has come through the Santiago Bernebau over the last 12 years. Real was making its fourth straight trip to the semifinals, after losing the previous three years under coach Jose Mourinho, who of course has since moved on to Chelsea. After a 1-0 home win over Bayern Munich in the first leg, Real Madrid had to travel to Munich for the second leg.
The tie looked well poised, until captain Sergio Ramos popped up from the back to score two headers three minutes apart to blow the match open.
With a 2-0 lead for the game, and 3-0 on aggregate, after just 20 minutes of play, the two-legged affair was quickly slipping away from defending champion Munich. Real Madrid could truly sit back and play on the counter attack, which was the plan for both matches, and worked to perfection by Carlo Ancelotti’s men. All hope for a comeback was extinguished before halftime when Gareth Bale started the counter on the edge of his defensive box, and used his blazing speed to get in on goal, before squaring to Cristiano Ronaldo, who put it, and Munich, away with his record-breaking 15th goal of the campaign. By the time Ronaldo scored his second of the match, and 16th of the Champions League season, in the 90th minute, Real Madrid had well and truly demolished the defending champions, 4-0, and 5-0 on aggregate.
Real Madrid’s devastating 4-3-3 formation, with the world’s best player Ronaldo, Bale, and Karim Benzema up top, and Angel DiMaria, Xabi Alonso, and Luka Modric in the midfield, has run riot this season. Bale, signed from Tottenham in the summer, has given the team a devastating attack, and Real Madrid looked destined to finally make a final for the last 6 months.
Atletico Madrid will compete for its third cup final since 2010, after winning the Europa League in the 2010 and 2012 seasons. It will play in the Champions League final this year, after an impressive 3-1 win over Chelsea Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea actually took the lead in the game, and the tie, going up 1-0 in both after former Atletico forward Fernando Torres scored in the 32nd minute. The Blues could not hold out until halftime though, with Atletico tying the match right before the whistle when Eden Hazard failed to track his man, allowing him to get in at the back cross and square a ball to Adrian, who calmly put the ball in the back of the net. Mourinho changed his formation from the “parking the bus,” throwing on striker Samuel Eto’o in the second half. This move backfired when Eto’o fouled Diego Costa in the box, with Costa scoring from the ensuing penalty, to make it 2-1 Atletico. When Arda Turan scored in the 72nd minute to put Atletico up 3-1, it was all but assured that there would be and all-Madrid final.
Diego Simeone has his Atletico team at the top of the La Liga standings with three matches to go, as well as the European final. He has taken a good side and made it great this year, and Atletico have four matches left this year which will determine if it can finish the jobs off and win silverware, breaking the hold of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Atletico will play those two teams in a seven-day period, with the opportunity in its own hands to wrestle a trophy or two away from the big two, and in the process cement itself as the new power in La Liga, and European, football.
The Champions League final has the makings of a classic, much like the match last season between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Atletico and Real Madrid will play for the fifth time this season, with Real holding a 2-1-1 advantage. Who will win?
You will have to check back in a few weeks for that prediction.
• While Madrid is unquestionably the European capital of football for the 2013-2014, the local area capital of football is also not in question.
Dacey’s Pub in Morrisville will host two of the biggest football parties over the next few months. Saturday, May 24, for this classic Champions League Final, Dacey’s will have a screening of the match, which will include jersey giveaways, food, and fanfare. If you are around on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and want to come out and watch the match with myself and many of the area’s fans of the game, please stop by and join in the festivities.
Dacey’s will also host a World Cup final party on Sunday, July 13, starting at 3 p.m. That seems like a long time away, but the tournament starts in about 6 weeks, and it is never too early to get your plans in for the party that is the World Cup final.
Dacey has been a huge friend to the game, and is the preeminent place to watch matches in the area. So come out and join the fun in three weeks for the Real Madrid Atletico Madrid final.
• La Liga has three of the four spots in the two European finals this season. Sevilla joins the other two, after it scored in the 94th minute of its match, to stun fellow Spanish side Valencia, going through to the Europa Cup Final on away goals. Valencia was literally seconds away from the final when Stéphane M’Bia headed in a flick-on from a throw in to send the visiting fans, and the Sevilla bench, into hysterics. The final will see Sevilla play Benfica, who ousted Juventus, on May 14th at 2:45 p.m. from Turin, Italy. Sevilla, which won this tournament in 2006 and 2007 when known as the UEFA Cup, will look to add another trophy to the impressive season for La Liga.