Road to the UEFA Final
Story by Bryan King
MADRID – As a warm sunny Saturday afternoon draws to an end, the “El Derbi Madrileño” – the Madrid Derby – is renewed for the fifth time this season between crosstown rivals Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid. The contest between these two clubs intensifies as they play for Europeans Club Soccer’s biggest trophy, the UEFA championship.
The crowd roars out “Real Madrid ale ale, Real Madrid ale ale” as Real Madrid fans pile into Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to watch their team in the season finale. While the game is actually being played in Portugal, fans are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to watch their club attempt to win a record tenth UEFA championship on a jumbotron in their home stadium. The team has also gone through a relative drought, having not taken the title since 2002.
“No. 10 is a very special thing,” said Marco Manciui de la Guardia, a Real Madrid fan. “The first games were less important, but now we have been 12 years without winning, so it is very special.”
Real Madrid continued its winning ways this season with a third place finish in the La Liga, the top Spanish football league, with a record of 27-6-5 and qualifying for next year’s UEFA league tournament. The Vikings also captured their 19th Copa del Rey trophy, awarded for the Spanish La Liga league’s season tournament. The team was dominant, outscoring their opponents 15 to 1 in nine games. These wins included two commanding victories against Atlético and another over bitter rival FC Barcelona in the final. The team continued its domination in the UEFA league, losing only one of its 12 regular season matches.
To earn the spot in the UEFA Finals, the team beat defending UEFA champions Bayern München in semifinals after besting last year’s runner-up Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Real Madrid managed to outpace the competition in goals 37-10 over the run to the UEFA final.
On the other side, Atletico was appearing in its first UEFA Final since 1974. Atlético capped off its best season in recent memory, posting a record of 28-6-4 en route to winning the La Liga for the first time since the 1996 campaign. They defeated archrival Real Madrid and did not lose a match to Barcelona for the first time since 2009-2010. Atlético went undefeated during its run to the UEFA championship, beating powerhouses AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea to advance to the final.
The team’s fans, who gathered around and inside Vicente Calderón Stadium crying out “Ateti, Ateti, Ateti, oyoyoy,” did not believe their run was a fluke. They credited the selfless makeup of the roster for success.
“Atletico is better than Real, because they have team chemistry and not just stars like Ronaldo,” said Carlo Milotil.
Regardless of this championship season, Atlético still has plenty to prove to match its archrival Real Madrid’s success.
“Before [Atlético] could say they were the best team for Madrid, they’ll need to win another eight championships. [Real Madrid] is the best team in the world, in the history,” said Guardia.