Last year we had the first all-German Champions League final. This year we have the first Champions League final with two clubs from the same city. Obviously this means that next year the Champions League final will be between two teams entirely comprised of members of the Toure family. But in the meantime it's Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid with the former club looking for La Decima — their long awaited record 10th Champions League title — while the latter hope to win their first after hoisting the Europa League trophy twice in the last four years.
Though this is the first time these two local rivals will face each other in the Champions League final, it will be the fifth time they face each other this season across three different competitions. Of the previous four meetings, Real Madrid have won twice and lost once with a combined score of 7-3. The two clubs have split the domestic silverware this season as Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey and Atletico stunned the world by winning La Liga for the first time since 1996. But now they face each other with a continental title on the line and in a different location — the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal. It's a battle for Madrid, for Europe, and for exaggerated war analogies. This is the fourth annual DT Champions League viewing companion.
How They Got Here
Real Madrid: After going undefeated in the group stage, they made easy work of Schalke in the round of 16 (9-2 aggregate), then narrowly escaped a second-leg comeback from last year's runners up Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals (3-2 aggregate). Real Madrid then learned from their mistakes and pounded reigning champions of Europe Bayern Munich with four goals at the Allianz Arena to win their semifinal 5-0 on aggregate. So after that trio of knockout-stage victories, we at least know that Real Madrid are the champions of Germany.
Atletico Madrid: Like their opponents, they also went undefeated in the group stage, but they enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to keep it going all the way to this point. They beat previous champions Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea along the way, displaying a fearlessness as they overcame their opponents superior experience in the late stages of this tournament.
Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid): In his first season with the club, the man with the most captivating eyebrow in all of sports has taken Real Madrid to their first European final in 12 years. He's won the Champions League twice before as a manager with Milan (it would've been three had he not been the victim of Liverpool's spectacular comeback in the 2005 final). He's also won domestic titles in England and France. Like his current club, he simply has a wealth of experience in winning. And if it weren't for Real's late season stumble in La Liga, he would already have a statue with one perked eyebrow outside the Bernabeu. But his teams aren't immune to slip-ups.
Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid): Having also played three seasons for Atletico, the 44-year-old Argentine had ingrained himself as a club hero even before leading them through this magical season. Dressed completely in black each matchday, Simeone has been hailed as the new Jose Mourinho for his brash disruption of the European status quo. After beating Mourinho's Chelsea in the semifinals, Simeone thanked the mothers of his players for giving them big balls. But in addition to all his wit and swagger, he also has an endearing emotional side as evidenced by the hug he gave his father after winning La Liga.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Two-time Ballon d'Or winner, scorer of ridiculous goals, naked person on a magazine cover. There is nothing Ronaldo cannot do with a football or a glob of hair gel. He's already set a new Champions League record with 16 goals in this campaign and he developed a new method of happy hand counting along the way.
Once seen as a superficial and egomaniacal villain, Ronaldo has enjoyed a shift in the narrative this season that has highlighted his humanity and generosity. He has won the Champions League once before, but to lift the trophy in the city where he began his professional career would be a special addition to all sentimental write-ups about the man who surpassed Lionel Messi to become the current best player in the world.
Gareth Bale: The only man in the world who might have cost more than Ronaldo, Gareth Bale has stood up to the monumental pressure put on his since he joined from Tottenham last summer. The Welshman has scored 21 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions this season and with Ronaldo watching from the stands, he produced one of the most memorable moments of the season when he pressed the turbo button and scored the Copa del Rey winner against Barcelona. To do it again in his first Champions League final would be unthinkable for anyone else, but Bale is making a habit of proving people wrong.
Iker Casillas: The sad eyes of San Iker have seen many horrors. Despite being Real Madrid captain and the only player remaining from the side that won their last Champions League title in 2002, Casillas has been almost exclusively limited to playing in cup competitions (with Diego Lopez handling weekly La Liga duties) after falling out with former manager Jose Mourinho. It would be hard to find anyone at Real Madrid who would appreciate winning La Decima more than Casillas.
Diego Costa: The Brazilian turned Spaniard is an injury doubt for the final, which is cause for panic. Costa has been a revelation this season, scoring 36 goals in 51 appearances to draw the interest of some of Europe's biggest clubs (he is reportedly headed for Chelsea next season). Costa has been at the center of some brutish moments with Real Madrid in the past — namely with defender Sergio Ramos. Now that they're all international teammates that seems to have settled down a bit, but this could be just the occasion to disregard all that.
Koke: Koke is love, Koke is life. Still just 22 years old, the product of Atletico's youth academy was one of La Liga's top creators with 13 assists this season (only Real Madrid Angel Di Maria had more) while also showing the ability to score a few himself. Spanish national team coach Vicente Del Bosque recently said, "I have blind faith in Koke." Even Barcelona midfielder Xavi says Koke is his successor with the national team. And Xavi doesn't like anyone. Koke is The One.
Thibaut Courtois: On loan from Chelsea, Courtois has quickly established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He keeps Messi in a carry bag and occasionally feeds him grapes just to be nice. Real Madrid have caused him trouble this season, but there's no better place to get revenge than the Champions League final.
Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly overcome a groin strain (likely from overuse) and is likely to play. Defender and fellow Portuguese Pepe is a "major doubt" due to a calf injury (possibly from biting it himself), but that just opens the door to more than serviceable replacement Raphael Varane. Xabi Alonso will also be unavailable due to his accumulation of yellow cards.
Atletico: Diego Costa went to Belgrade to undergo the fabled horse placenta treatment in a desperate bid to heal his thigh injury. Arda Turan and his ferocious beard are hoping to play with a pelvic injury.
How They Win
Real Madrid: With a counter attack so fast that it makes Usain Bolt look like he's in a mobility scooter.
Atletico: A mix of impenetrable defending, an ability to adapt and break down opponents. Plus the intimidation factor of having a manager who is always dressed like he's attending the opposing team's funeral.
Commentator Talking Points
Some words, phrases and facts you're likely to hear from the match commentators...
-"La Decima, La Decima, La Decima."
-"Real Madrid's team cost so much more than Atletico's!"
-Reminders that both teams are from the same city every six minutes.
-"Atletico are the people's club and nevermind about them not paying taxes for two years and running up massive debt."
-"Atletico hoping not to blow the European crown like they did in their first appearance in the final 40 years ago."
-"Why can't Ronaldo and Bale stop being so nice and hate each other so there can be a rivalry between them for us to talk about?"
-Bemoaning the cruelty of bans for yellow card accumulation while showing Xabi Alonso looking sad in the stands.
-"We're five minutes into the match and Sergio Ramos amazingly has not been sent off yet."
-"Jose Mourinho has just jumped out of a laundry bin and run off with the Champions League trophy. Now he's holding it hostage with a blowtorch and demanding a helicopter."
What To Do After The Match
If Real win: Put on a life vest and try not to drown in Casillas' tears of joy.
If Atletico win: Winning La Liga and the Champions League in the same season?!? Brace yourselves, because the earth is going to start swallowing up sinners as the righteous float towards the heavens.
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