Forget Barcelona, Liverpool And PSG, Here Is The Team That Is Set For Champions League Glory Following Real Madrid’s Exit
Defending champions Real Madrid crashed out of the Champions League in spectacular fashion last night as they were embarrassed at the Santiago Bernabeu by Ajax, losing 4-1 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. That means Real will not win the famous trophy this year and their run of over 1000 days as champions of Europe will come to an end in May.
English side Manchester City are still favourites to lift the trophy under Pep Guardiola at the end of the season but one side will benefit more than most from Real Madrid’s shock exit and it is not the Citizens.
Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid have repeatedly been ransacked by their city rival Real in the Champions League over the past five seasons. In fact, if you disregard last season when Atleti failed to qualify from their group, Real Madrid have knocked them out their fierce rivals every year since 2013.
In the 2013-14 season, the two giants clashed in the final of the Champions League in Lisbon. Atletico Madrid put on a great defensive showing and lead the final 1-0 in the 93rd minute, until Sergio Ramos struck. His last-minute header forced extra-time and Real would go onto win 4-1, lifting their tenth European Cup - La Decima.
The following season, Atletico came through a group containing Juventus and were drawn against Real in the quarter-finals. They held them in the first leg 0-0 at home and things were once again tense heading into the closing moments of the second leg. With the score level at 0-0 in the 88th minute, Javier Hernandez popped up with the winner to dump the Rojiblancos out once again.
The following season, Atletico Madrid once again made their way to the Champions League final after an incredible run. They beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich on their way to the final in the San Siro where Real once again stood in their way. This time, Atletico took them all the way to penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time. Yet once again they came up short. Juanfran missed the crucial penalty before Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines with his winning spot-kick. Real had made it a hat-trick of wins over their fierce rival and the following season things would get even better.
The two teams remarkably clashed once again in the semi-finals and Atletico actually had a lead to take to the Bernabeu, winning the first leg 2-1. However, Real came storming back, with a few contentious refereeing decisions and a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick saw them into the final, where they won their third consecutive Champions League and fourth in five seasons. Remarkable.
Atletico Madrid have been haunted by a local nickname ‘El Pupas’. That translates to ‘The Jinxed Ones’ which certainly has been the case for them against their fierce rivals in Europe recently and they just cannot seem to shake off this jinx. However, this season, they do not need to beat their more illustrious city rivals to lift the trophy. Ajax have done that job for them.
With the final scheduled to take place at their own brand-new home stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, the stars seem to be aligning for Diego Simeone’s men. A 2-0 first leg win over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus has put them in a good position to qualify for the quarter-finals, but you cannot write off a team as talented as the Old Lady.
If they can get past this hurdle, they could be a great shout to finally end their curse of never winning the European Cup having lost three finals. Simeone’s team are the ones to watch this season.