2014 defeat ‘cruel’ but Atletico Madrid happy to have UCL final rerun
With the pain still fresh in its mind, Atletico Madrid has an added motivation for Saturday’s Champions League final rematch against Real Madrid.football Updated: May 28, 2016 23:23 IST
With the pain still fresh in its mind, Atletico Madrid has an added motivation for Saturday’s Champions League final rematch against Real Madrid.
Atletico was on the verge of claiming Europe’s premier club competition in 2014 when Madrid equalised in stoppage time and went on to win 4-1.
“The past is not worth considering now,” Atletico captain Gabi Fernandez said. “You can only judge us on what we do tomorrow. We have the talent to beat Madrid and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“It was a cruel defeat,” Fernandez said of the match two years ago. “We’re happy to have another chance.”
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos rubbished suggestions Atletico would have more desire to win after losing in Lisbon.
“I have wonderful memories of Lisbon, but we have turned the page,” he said. “You can’t live in the past, we’re facing this final as if we’d never been in the Champions League final before. We’re still as hungry to win. They will have a bad taste in their mouth but you can’t just sit down and cry, you have to get up and create new opportunities to win.”
“The pressure exists because it’s a final, whether you have won the previous one or not. We don’t want it less than Atletico, on the contrary. We want to win again, we want to continue adding cups.”
One Atletico player who has won the prestigious trophy is former Chelsea forward Fernando Torres, but he said it would be extra special to repeat that feat with his childhood club.
For Spain, Torres scored a goal in the final both times his country won the European Championship, in 2008 and 2012. He also won the World Cup.
“Tomorrow is the most important game I will play ever,” Torres said. “I’m very happy to be playing with this club. I’ve been playing with them since I was 5. I was very lucky to win the competition with Chelsea and so much with Spain, but this is something very special for me.”
Torres progressed through the ranks at Atletico before moving to Liverpool and then Chelsea. He had a disappointing four-month loan spell at AC Milan before returning to Atletico at the start of 2015.
The 32-year-old striker will be hoping to cap his rehabilitation with club football’s biggest prize.
“Tomorrow means everything to me, everything you dream when you’re a kid,” Torres said. “Tomorrow, I have the chance to make this dream come true. It’s just what I wanted when I was a kid.
“Tomorrow is the game of my life without doubt.”
Real Madrid is bidding for an 11th European Cup, while it would be a first for Atletico but coach Diego Simeone said he is ready.
“I love to have 130 years of history on my back,” the Argentine said. “I love that. I love the pressure.”
Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane was also relishing the pressure ahead of his biggest game as coach, having only started his senior coaching career five months ago.
As a player, Zidane scored to give Madrid its ninth title in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen. He also won the tournament as an assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti two years ago.
The 43-year-old Zidane is confident he has prepared his players to the maximum.
“We’re one game away. We’re all very happy to be playing this final. And we’re ready. That’s a big word. We’re ready to play,” Zidane said. “We have to give our all tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. But we know we’re ready, we’re prepared. Tomorrow, what we have to do is run, run and run.”
Question marks have surrounded the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portugal international left Real Madrid’s training session early following an injury scare on Tuesday.
But just as he did before the Champions League semifinal against Manchester City — which Ronaldo eventually missed — Zidane played down his player’s injury.
“He was feeling a bit of pain but now he’s 100% I would say,” Zidane said. “Plus he’s playing a final and when you play a final if you’re feeling any pain you forget it.”