Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will become the first city rivals to face off in the UEFA Champions League final when they clash in Lisbon this weekend, and there are reasons for both clubs to believe this is the biggest fixture they might ever play.
Little over a year ago, Diego Simeone’s men faced the prospect of having to overcome a 14-year drought in local derbies against their famous rival in order to win the Copa del Rey.
But after clinching a 2-1 triumph in Real’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium, they repeated the feat in La Liga this term and grabbed a 2-2 draw in the return at the Vicente Calderon which helped them to claim a first league crown in 18 years. Real may have responded with a two-legged win in the Copa del Rey, but Atletico would gladly have traded a cup exit for a Liga title.
At no other time this century has Atletico held the bragging rights in Madrid the way it does now, but it have never won European football's biggest prize, and hasn't even made the final for 40 years since a replay defeat to Bayern Munich in 1974.
The Blancos, on the other hand, have a record nine European Cup/Champions League titles to their name, but their search for the much vaunted Decima has gone on for 12 years thus far since beating Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow in 2002.
It is they that boast the more star-studded squad, the multi-million euro signings, the Ballon d’Or holder in Cristiano Ronaldo and the grand European history, but their neighbors are not Spanish champions for nothing.
Real Madrid players know that they will never be able to make it up to their fans if they are denied La Decima by their arch-rivals, while Atleti will be desperate to back up their league success with European glory at Real’s expense.
We have never seen a football match like it, and may never again. Let the Madrid madness begin.