Atletico Madrid have once again confounded expectations both at home and abroad this season.
Diego Simeone’s side pushed Barcelona and Real Madrid all the way in the race for the Liga title, and face a second all-Madrid Champions League final in the space of three seasons at San Siro on Saturday.
Real came out on top after extra-time in Lisbon in 2014, as well as last year’s quarter-finals, but Simeone feels this final is “50-50”.
Here we take a look at how Atletico reached Milan.
Atletico started their Group C campaign with a 2-0 win at Galatasaray courtesy of a first-half double from Antoine Griezmann, but Benfica sprang a surprise by beating them 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon on matchday two.
Simeone’s team then hammered Astana 4-0 at home before being held to a dour 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture in Kazakhstan.
However, they sealed top spot in the pool with another comfortable 2-0 victory over Gala, before goals from Saul Niguez and Luciano Vietto earned a 2-1 success at Benfica.
Round of 16 – PSV (0-0 agg, 8-7 pens)
Atletico were pushed all the way in their last-16 tie, with PSV proving stubborn opponents.
The Spanish side were unfortunate not to score an away goal in the first leg, with PSV goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet making several superb saves, and it was a similar story at the Calderon three weeks later.
Jurgen Locadia almost snatched victory for PSV when he hit the post, but the tie went to penalties after 210 scoreless minutes.
Luciano Narsingh missed after 14 successful spot-kicks, and Juanfran stepped up to send Atletico into the quarter-finals.
Quarter-finals – Barcelona (3-2 agg)
Atletico overcame Barcelona in the last eight on their way to the final in 2014, and they repeated the trick two years on with a dramatic 3-2 aggregate win.
Fernando Torres scored midway through the first half at Camp Nou to give them a crucial away goal, but the Atleti striker was dismissed for two bookable offences before half-time.
Luis Suarez made Barca’s pressure pay with a second-half double to give the defending champions a narrow lead heading into the second leg.
But Griezmann made the difference at the Calderon, as he opened the scoring with an excellent header before the break and then converted a penalty late on to book Atleti’s semi-final berth.
Semi-finals – Bayern Munich (2-2 agg, Atletico win on away goals)
A moment of magic from Saul, and typical defensive resilience, gave Atleti a 1-0 home win in the first leg.
Bayern looked unstoppable in the first half of the return at the Allianz Arena, though, with the German champions’ performance leading Simeone to praise them as the best team he has ever faced as a manager.
Xabi Alonso drew Bayern level with a deflected free-kick just after the half-hour mark, but the rampant hosts were denied a quickfire second when Jan Oblak saved Thomas Muller’s penalty.
A sensational Atletico counter-attack early in the second half ended with Griezmann coolly beating Manuel Neuer – leaving Bayern needing two more goals to advance.
Robert Lewandowski’s header 16 minutes from time made it a tense ending for Atletico – who also saw Torres spurn the chance to wrap the tie up when he missed a late penalty – but they held on to book a Madrid derby in Milan.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!