The Champions League Final is here and we will be facing Atlético again. They have just won the Liga BBVA, but we are the Copa del Rey Champions after having knocked them out in the semifinals, so I tend to believe our performance has been similar so far and the odds for next Saturday's game are quite even. This duel has been held four times this season, and the ups and downs we have seen make it really hard to foresee what will happen in Lisbon.
September 28, 2013: Real Madrid 0 – Atlético de Madrid 1 (Liga BBVA)
This was, undoubtedly, our worst game against Atlético: Real Madrid did not stand a chance against a team with clearer ideas and a much higher intensity. Ancelotti had not still been able to implement the 4-3-3 he had dreamt of, basically because of Alonso's late incorporation to the roster, and struggled to find a way to put the BBC in the lineup without losing defensive strength.
For this game, Carletto chose a 4-4-2 formation. Illarramendi and Khedira were the defensive midfielders and Isco and Di María took the wings on their unnatural feet, and it was a disaster. Asier and Sami were not coordinated at all and this resulted on a big hole at their back that Villa exploited. Furthermore, their assistance to start Real Madrid's possession was null. Real Madrid tried to build attacks from the wings, but Arbeloa and Coentrao were not able to create any superiority against Atleti's pressing. Modric and Bale entered the field in the second half, but it was too late. Atlético is one of the best defensive teams in the world and left our men without any clear opportunity to score.
February 5, 2014: Real Madrid 3 – Atlético de Madrid 0 (Copa del Rey)
This game came at Real Madrid's best moment in the season. The 4-3-3 with Alonso, Modric and Di María was performing at its best and our team was displaying a great collective game, both in defensive and offensive tasks. It was a great chance to prove that we could also beat strong teams and our players showed what they were capable of.
Ancelotti confirmed that the lack of intensity in the first game against Atlético had been disturbing and he was able to fix it. Coentrao, Pepe, Ramos, Arbeloa, Alonso and Di María were able to match Gabi, Raúl García, Koke and Costa and beat them with their weapons. It is true that we were lucky with Pepe's goal, but Atleti were absolutely outplayed, being able to shoot on target only three times in the whole game.
February 11, 2014: Atlético de Madrid 0 – Real Madrid 2 (Copa del Rey)
The semifinal was largely over due to Real Madrid's 3-0 victory on the first leg, and so our coach designed a lineup with the clear intention of controlling the game and avoid risks. Atlético were undermined by the absences of many important players and they tried to stay together and counterattack, but their plan was broken since Real Madrid's first approach to their box ended with a penalty kick scored by Cristiano.
March 2, 2014: Atlético de Madrid 2 – Real Madrid 2 (Liga BBVA)
Definitely, the most interesting confrontation so far. Real Madrid's initial setup was similar to the one displayed a month before in Bernabéu, and the early goal by Benzema was great news, but Atlético's intensity went far beyond the expectations. Our men had the chance to clear the mood and take profit of their advantage, but they wanted to enter the physical fight again and, this time, they were beaten. Koke and Gabi scored before the break, and Atlético could even have increased the gap in the second half.
Fortunately, Ancelotti was clever and his substitutions changed the game. Marcelo, Carvajal and Isco entered the field as Atlético's players were running out of gas and they were able to siege Courtois' goal until Ronaldo was able to score. The winning goal was close, but our players did not have enough time to get it.
With a 2-1-1 balance, Real Madrid has been the superior team. However, the absolute Atlético's command in the first league game and certain phases in the last one should suffice for our players to be aware of the huge challenge they'll be facing on Saturday. Atlético is the Liga BBVA champion and they beat us in last year's Copa del Rey final, so it would be unwise to think we are clear favourites. Simeone's men will, for sure, set up a great fight.