The occasion at Benfica’s magnificent Estadio da Luz will make history as the first European final to be played between two teams from the same city.
The club traces its roots to the late 1890s when academics and scholars at the Institucion libre de ensenanza, including several alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, formed a team to play on Sunday mornings.
They assumed the name Madrid Football Club in 1902 and won the first of their many trophies in 1905. A founding member of the Royal Spanish Football Federation in 1909, the club was granted its Royal (Real) seal of approval by King Alfonso XIII in 1920.
The coming of the Second Spanish Republic meant this ‘Royal’ tag had to be dropped and when General Franco seized power in 1939, there were many accusations of a Madrid bias.
But debate rages about just how much influence Franco had on football leagues and indeed how interested he was in the sport.
He sat impassively at most Real matches but he did do the pools every week under a pseudonym Francisco Cofran. He won the jackpot twice.
Yet suspicions were raised when Real thrashed Barcelona 11-1 in the second leg of a Cup semi-final (which Franco had renamed the Copa del Generalisimo) in 1943. Police reportedly intimidated the Barcelona players, telling them they were only playing because of ‘the regime’s generosity in permitting them to remain in the country.’
They came into being in April 1903, formed by three students from the Basque region living in Madrid. A year later, they were joined by rebels who had grown disillusioned with Real.
Their colours and nickname ‘Los Colchoneros’ (the mattressers) possibly derives from their decision to play in red and white striped shirts because the same colour scheme was used on bed mattresses and unused cloth could be cut into football shirts.
While Real were the club of academics and the aristocracy, Atletico drew a more blue collar support after locating in the south of the city.
During the Franco era, Atletico merged with the Spanish Air Force and several of their players came from the General’s air corps. In the opinion of some historians, this military connection makes Atletico the favoured team of Franco.
Since the Second World War, Real Madrid have been the pre-eminent club both in Spain and right across Europe. Their vast trophy cabinet is the envy of clubs right around the world
. It contains a record 32 Spanish league championships, including five-in-a-row between 1961 and 1965, 19 spanish Cups, nine European Cups, including the first five, and two UEFA Cups.
The pursuit of ‘La Decima’ (the tenth), a phrase coined by President Florentino Perez after their last triumph in 2002, has become something of an obsession for everyone associated with the club ever since.
In most other cities, Atletico’s triumphs over the years would be considered quite impressive. But unfortunately they are overshadowed by their great rivals, especially in continental competitions.
Atleti have nine Spanish championships, the last coming in 1996, and 10 Copa del Rey trophies. These sit alongside two recent UEFA Europa League wins and the Cup Winners’ Cup. They have been runners-up in the European Cup but have never won it.
The pursuit of European honours has become pretty standard for Real Madrid over the decades and, looking back over time, they are the undisputed Kings of the continent.
Pioneers of the European Cup in the fifties after the vision of president Santiago Bernabeu, their all-conquering team led by Alfredo Di Stefano claimed the first five editions of Europe’s blue riband competition between 1956 and 1960.
Their 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Hampden Park final of 1960 is popularly seen as one of the greatest performances in football history. They won again in 1966 but then had to wait until 1998 to taste success again.
Subsequent wins over Valencia in 2000 and Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 have taken the tally to nine. Real also claimed back-to-back UEFA Cups in 1985 and 1986.
Atletico’s achievements overseas have been more modest – this is their second European Cup final. In 1974, Atleti were beaten in a replay by the all-conquering Bayern Munich.
They have found a niche in the UEFA Europa League however and beat Fulham 2-1 in the 2010 final in Hamburg and followed that up in 2012 with a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.
In the more distant past, they beat Fiorentina in the 1962 Cup Winners’ Cup final, after a replay, to gain their first piece of European silverware.
Real play at the gigantic and iconic Santiago Bernabeu is located on a prime patch in the central Chamartin district of Madrid. Constructed in the mid-forties, it has been continuously redeveloped into one of the finest venues in which to play and watch football.
It’s capacity currently stands at 81,000, making it Spain’s largest venue behind the Camp Nou in Barcelona, but the wheels are in motion to expand this to 88,500 at a cost of some £250m.
At one stage in its illustrious history, the Bernabeu, named after the former president, could accommodate 125,000.
It staged the final of the 1982 World Cup and the 1964 European Championships, as well as four European Cup/Champions League finals.
Colourful, vibrant and noisy, the Vicente Calderon, located in the Arganzuela district, is an open-roofed ampitheatre with banked stands that ensure the red and white masses are on top of the action.
Originally opened in 1966, it now holds just shy of 55,000 fans and hosted three group matches during the 1982 World Cup. Instead of renovating the ground, plans are afoot to move to a 73,000-seater stadium in the next few years.
As one of the most commercially astute clubs and best-known football ‘brands’, Real can count upon millions of supporters all around the world. There are nearly 2,000 official supporters’ groups in Spain and beyond.
There are just under 70,000 season ticket holders at the Bernabeu, making up the vast majority of the crowd.
Real have moved this season to banish their controversial Ultras Sur group, who are associated with extreme right-wing political beliefs, from the Bernabeu and replace them with better behaved fans.
Atletico draw their support predominantly from the south of the city, inspiring tremendous loyalty and passion.
They are one of the best-supported clubs in Spain, regularly attracting over 45,000 to the Calderon, the vast majority of whom are season ticket holders.
Their success this season has attracted a new following right around the world.
EL DERBI MADRILENO
The Champions League final will be the 155th meeting of the two sides in a rivalry that stretches right back to 1928.
The record in the league does not reflect too kindly on Atletico, with 36 wins to Real’s 85. There have been 33 draws.
They have met in European competition before, way back in the 1958-1959 European Cup, when their semi-final tie ended 2-2 on aggregate. Real won the play-off game 2-1 in Zaragoza but had the away goals rule existed back then, Atletico would have gone through and broken Real’s early dominance of the competition.
The last year has seen a dramatic change of fortunes in the Madrid derby, with Atletico beating Real 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final last May and then taking four points from this season’s two league encounters.
Source: Daily Mail