Tonight’s Copa del Rey final has an all-round Madrid flavour to it, with Real Madrid facing city rivals Atletico at the Bernabeu.
Both sides have nothing else left to play for this season having secured second and third spot in La Liga behind champions Barcelona.
Their respective European campaigns ended in disappointment with Los Blancos losing to German outfit Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final, while Los Colchoneros were eliminated at the last 32 stage by Rubin Kazan of Russia.
The Copa offers a chance for Atletico to gain revenge over Real having lost twice in the league this year. Indeed, Atletico have a woeful recent record against their illustrious neighbours, and have not beaten them in any competition for 14 years.
So where will the match be won and lost tonight? Realmadridnews.com takes a look at some of the key battles.
Jose Mourinho vs Diego Simeone: It’s approaching two years since Diego Simeone took charge of Atletico, and in his time at the club he has yet to get the upper hand on either Madrid or Barcelona. In the two league matches this year Atletico gave Madrid a run for their money and will be hopeful of going one further this evening. In Mourinho though, Simeone is looking to outwit a tactical master. He has a win percentage of 72.6% in his time at Real and is looking to win his second Copa del Rey in three years.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Radamel Falcoa: The two most likely players get on the scoresheet tonight, both men have been scoring machines for their clubs. Ronaldo’s figures are off the charts almost. He reached 200 goals for Los Blancos in just 197 games, he’s scored 34 goals in La Liga this season, and is looking to finish as the top scorer in the Copa del Rey for the fourth consecutive campaign. Atletico’s defence will have their work cut out. Falcao meanwhile has scored 28 goals in La Liga, two thirds of his side’s total, and his goalscoring run has seen him linked with big money moves away from the Calderon.
Angel di Maria vs Felipe Luis: One of the trickiest wingers versus one of La Liga’s most consistent performers at full back. Di Maria has had an inconsistent season by his standards, but scored in the Real’s win over Atletico in the league recently. Felipe was rested in the defeat to Barcelona at the weekend to ensure he’s fresh for tonight’s encounter.
Michael Essien vs Arda Turan: Atletico will be looking to exploit Madrid’s weakest area tonight – right back. Michael Essien has been chosen in recent weeks and although he’s done an admirable job, it’s not his most favoured position. In Ardan Turn, Essien will be up against a very skillful player who is good with both feet and able to operate on the right or left hand side.
Xabi Alonso vs Mario Suarez: Two defensive midfield masters. Xabi Alonso has seen it all in his career and the World Cup and European Championship winner will be key in stopping Atletico’s attacking trio get too much time and space on the ball. He’ll look to set Los Blancos on the counter attack with his incredible passing ability. Mario has had a strong season with Los Rojiblancos and earned his first full cap with the Spanish national side back in February. He’ll need to be at his best in front of the defence to stop Ronaldo and co.