La Liga: Atlético seek to make most of Real Madrid’s civil war
The two teams meet on Friday in the final of the Copa del Rey. For Atlético, it’s a chance to break a 14-year jinx, for Mourinho’s team it’s a chance to salvage something from a poor season.
By Halima Ali
It has been 14 years since Atlético Madrid last took the scalp of their neighbours. Their inferiority complex has lasted since 1999, and on Friday the cross-town rivals meet in the Copa del Rey final.
At times during that period, Los Rojiblancos have played better than Real Madrid but still the latter have taken victory. The occasional draw is about as close as Atlético have come to breaking the jinx and despite renewed optimism earlier this season when Diego Simeone’s men were in fine form, they lost again. Twice, in fact: the latest la liga game between the two at the Vicente Calderón just over two weeks ago saw a second-string Madrid side who were without Cristiano Ronaldo win 2-1.
However, on the weekend, both sides were equally unimpressive. At the Calderón, the hosts welcomed Barcelona, the newly crowned la liga champions, and gave them a guard of honour as they stepped out on to the pitch.
With Champions League qualification assured for the hosts, they didn’t get out of first gear though they did score first. Radamel Falcao – who is being linked with a big-money move to Monaco – struck in the 51st minute, but after the break, Alexis Sánchez levelled the scores before David Villa’s miscued shot was diverted by Gabi into his own net to secure victory.
Perhaps fearing for the fate of their team on Friday, the Atléti faithful stayed behind to applaud and did so for so long, that even the players who had departed the pitch came back out to soak up the attention and give their thanks for the support.
Meanwhile in Cataluña the night before, Madrid handed over their la liga title to Barcelona without Los Culés even boarding the team bus, with a 1-1 draw at Espanyol.
Christian Stuani gave Espanyol the lead in the first half. Gonzalo Higuaín pulled one back for José Mourinho’s side in the second half but it was not enough to stop Barça securing the league trophy.
Mourinho’s angry exit
The final may seem a one-sided affair, but if ever there were a time to secure a huge victory over Madrid, it is now, with Mourinho’s rants causing civil war in the Santiago Bernabéu.
In recent weeks, his enemy of choice this season, club captain Iker Casillas, who until this year had spent 10 years without missing a competitive match, has come to face more public digs from his manager.
In a rare appearance at a press conference, when asked what his biggest regret was during his time at the club, Mourinho’s answer was curt: “I should have brought in Diego López after my first year.”
When asked to elaborate on why he prefers López, he went on the list the attributes that make him a better goalkeeper than the World Cup winning stopper he already had in his ranks.
It is no secret that Mourinho looks set to leave at the end of the season but his declarations led many to believe he was trying to force the club into sacking him.
His comments drew the ire of Pepe who stated: “Iker is well loved. What the coach said was not the most appropriate. Iker is a player who is part of Madrid. He’s an institution, both in this club and in Spain.”
Club President Florentino Pérez publicly called for unity ahead of the Copa final but his words fell on deaf ears as Mourinho cranked it up a notch. When asked about Pepe’s comments his response was scathing.
“You just have to be a normal person like me or like almost everyone in this room to know that we are talking about frustration,” he said.
“His problem has a name: Raphael Varane. It’s not easy for a man of 31 years, with status and history, to be trampled over by a kid of 19. But that’s the law of life. On a sporting level Pepe’s life has changed.”
He added: “I have no problem with him. I understand that it’s not an easy situation but I have to try to be honest and I think that there are very few people who don’t think that the future of Real Madrid in defence is Varane with Sergio Ramos.”
Ramos later called a players’ meeting, urging all to put aside their egos and focus on their opportunity to win at least one piece of silverware this year. The club were taking no chances however, cancelling the pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Espanyol.
The in-fighting perhaps gives Atlético a chance to finally get one over on their rivals. Indeed, with Raphael Varane ruled out of the game with injury, the defensive line-up is also in question and it is highly unlikely Mourinho will bring Pepe back into the fold. Mesut Özil is aiming to be fit, though he too suffered an injury and even Ronaldo has been a little off form in the last couple of games.
Los Blancos are there for the taking, but it is up to Atléti to break free of the weight of history. Either way, it will be a long and happy night in the Spanish capital, for one half of the city at least.
Atlético Madrid 1 – 2 FC Barcelona
RCD Espanyol 1 – 1 Real Madrid
Real Sociedad 2 – 2 Granada CF
Málaga CF 0 – 0 Sevilla FC
Real Betis 1 – 0 Celta de Vigo
Rayo Vallecano 0 – 4 Valencia CF
Osasuna 1 – 0 Getafe CF
Real Valladolid 1 – 0 Deportivo La Coruña
Athletic Bilbao 2 – 1 RCD Mallorca
Levante UD 0 – 0 Real Zaragoza
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Published: May 14 2013
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=8537
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Tags: civil war, Liga, Los Blancos, Mourinho, Real Madrid, spain, spain news, spain soccer, spanish football