Is it time for Atletico Madrid to kiss the Champions League Cup?
The curtains will be drawn on this year’s UEFA Champions League (UCL) at the Estádio do Sport in Lisbon on August 23.
By then, the boys will have given way to the men of European football.
The UCL competition, which is an annual competition played among the top-division European clubs, began in 1955 as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup but was rebranded to the UCL Cup in 1992.
A number of European teams have had a taste of glory since the competition was launched, with Real Madrid having been the most successful team clinching 13 titles, including the first five seasons of the competition.
However, it is very distressing when one takes a critical look at the glaring monopoly and predictability of the competition when the winners of the competition are always from the big clubs in recent times.
One very notable club in Europe that has failed to lift up the UCL club is Atletico Madrid since it was formed in 1903.
The Spanish club has won 10 cups for both the La Liga and Copa del Rey, and 3 cups for both the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup, 1 intercontinental cup among others, but has been a runner-up thrice in the UEFA Champions League.
The first UCL finals in which the club featured in 1973-74 season was a very contentious since it was the first European Cup final to require a replay after the first match was drawn 1–1 after extra time. They were defeated in the second match by Bayern Munich with a whopping 4-0.
Forty years later, Athletico’s city rivals, Real Madrid, had the last laugh in the 2013/2014 season. Again in the 2015/2016 season, Athletico went home the vanquished side against Madrid–who are the high flyers of the competition since its inception.
The red and white striped boys were really heartbroken after Sergio Ramos sunk the ball in the back of the net with a late header, sending the game to extra time where Real Madrid added 3 goals to their tally to win the 2013-14 finals.
They suffered the same misery when they met Real Madrid again in the 2015-16 season, who this time needed penalties( 5-3 ) after a 1-1 scoreline at full time to win.
However, this year might be a different story altogether for the red and white boys who have already recorded a signature win in this year’s competition.
Atletico Madrid claimed a spectacular win over 2019 UEFA champions Liverpool F.C. after scoring three goals in the extra time of their second leg to win on an aggregate of 4-2 at the Anfield stadium.
They face R.B. Leipzig in the quarter-finals today (August 13). They have the upper hand as the bookmakers tag them favourite to show the young German side the exit. Leipzig’s credentials in the champions league cannot be labelled as three-star.
An extra advantage that Atletico Madrid has over most of the teams in the race for the UCL is their coach, Diego Simeone. In the elite club division where the managers’ seat suffers musical chairs, the Atletico owners have kept faith with him since 2011.
In those nine years, he has delivered the La Liga trophy once in 2013/2014, decorated the club’s trophy cabinet with the second-tier EUROPA cup in 2012 and 2018.
He has seen the club’s cocktail of success and failure, giving him a fair idea of how to navigate the club in a crucial competition.
After allowing the UEFA Champions to slip through his grip twice by a narrow margin, I’m very sure that Diego is more than capable to pull all his tactics, strategies and wits to bring the elusive diadem home for the first time.
It’ll at least somewhat compensate one half of the city of Madrid who watched their bitter rivals celebrate their champion league success more than a dozen times.
If they make it to the finals, the Real Madrid jinx which has denied them the trophy twice will not be there.
Manchester City kicked out Athletico’s city rivals, Real Madrid, offering the red and white boys great relief for the task ahead.
Although there are other worthy contenders like Bayern Munich and Barcelona who have won the competition for a number of times in past years, there is still a lot of hope for the hungry Diego Simeone XI to outshine their opponents.
But first, they need to exorcise the ghost of Lisbon.
It was at the same venue that they lost the 2013/2014 finals to Real Madrid.