Atlético looking for long-awaited Madrid derby win

Atletico have not won a Madrid derby since 1999, but have rarely had a better opportunity as Real are expected to rest plenty of first-team regulars with Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second-leg against Borussia Dortmund in mind.

Atlético looking for long-awaited Madrid derby win
Real will arrive at the Calderon on the back of a devastating 4-1 defeat to Dortmund on Wednesday night. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

Atletico Madrid captain Gabi believes his side have a great opportunity to end their hoodoo against neighbours Real Madrid when they host the Spanish champions this weekend.

"There are 14 years worth of desperation to win this game," he told a press conference on Thursday.

"Obviously it is an opportunity for us. It has been a long time since we arrived at a derby so evenly matched and a long time since we beat them.

"We have spent a long time talking about the best way to win a derby and now we have to go and do it."

Real will arrive at the Calderon on the back of a devastating 4-1 defeat to Dortmund on Wednesday night and Gabi is hoping that result means Jose Mourinho will reserve the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil for the second-leg.

"We expect that Madrid will come here to win the game, regardless of which players play. The result yesterday was one no one expected, not them, nor the people who watched it from the outside, but they know how to get over this.

"It is obvious that at the end of the season those special players like Cristiano or Ozil are the ones that win you most points. If Mourinho doesn't think they should play then it is better for us."

Atletico were also handed a huge boost with the news that Diego Costa's yellow card against Sevilla last weekend has been rescinded so the Brazilian will be available to continue up front alongside Radamel Falcao.

For Real, meanwhile, the focus remains trying to somehow overcome their 4-1 deficit against Dortmund, but captain Iker Casillas said no matter what happens on Saturday he doesn't think it will influence how next month's Copa del Rey final between the two will go.

"The calender has been capricious and certainly it is difficult for us to think that before Tuesday we have a match. And on top of that it is against Atletico at the Calderon.

"It has been 14 years since they beat us and I suppose for them it is an important match, but I don't think it will make a big difference to what happens in the cup final."

An Atletico win would also ensure Barcelona are officially crowned champions on Saturday night should they manage to win away to Athletic Bilbao.

Barca suffered their own disappointment with a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in midweek which all but ended their chances of reaching the Champions League final.

However, manager Tito Vilanova is also likely to make a number of changes ahead of Bayern's visit to the Camp Nou on Wednesday with the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Cristian Tello coming into the side. 

On Sunday night meanwhile the focus turns to the race for the final Champions League spot as Real Sociedad host Valencia.

La Real currently hold a two-point advantage over Valencia with just six games remaining, but will be without influential winger Antoine Griezmann as he is suspended.

And it is another crucial weekend in the battle to avoid relegation withthe bottom five sides all separated by just three points.

   Defeat to Celta Vigo on Monday dropped Real Zaragoza to the foot of the
table and they host fellow-strugglers Mallorca in a crucial clash for both
sides on Saturday night.

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Thousands of Atletico fans flock to Madrid’s Neptune fountain to cheer league victory

Thousands of Atletico Madrid fans defied the authorities by taking to the streets of the Spanish capital to celebrate on Saturday night after victory over Real Valladolid secured their team an 11th league title.

Thousands of Atletico fans flock to Madrid's Neptune fountain to cheer league victory
Spanish policemen stand guard around Atletico Madrid´s supporters outside the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

As soon as the full-time whistle blew in Valladolid to confirm a 2-1 win, Atleti supporters flocked to the Neptune fountain in the centre of Madrid, in
line with tradition but defying Covid-19 rules regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing.

“I was confident Atletico would win. It was like a final and being against Valladolid, I knew we were going to win,” Federico Gonzalez, 46, and among the crowds, told AFP.

A large police presence surrounded the fountain, with several vans also present to prevent people from approaching the fountain, which had been lit up in Atletico’s red and white colours.

Fans waved flags and scarves while others set off flares as darkness fell, the celebrations going on into the night after Atletico’s second La Liga title in seven years.

“It is a joy. From the beginning of the game I was overcome with nerves because Atleti plays each game in its own way and you just never know”, said Carlota Maestro, 20, who came to the city centre with three friends.

Amid shouts of “Atleti, Atleti” and “Campeones”, the rojiblancos fans danced, jumped and hugged each other. Cars and motorbikes drove by honking
their horns, some with red and white flags poking out of the windows.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant Atletico’s fans have not been allowed to attend matches this season and their celebrations defied the recommendations of the authorities.

Fans ignored rules on social distancing and many were not wearing masks. “Please, I ask the Atletico fans not to go to Neptune,” wrote the mayor of
Madrid, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, himself an Atletico supporter, on Twitter. “I am the first to understand the desire to celebrate but this is not the time.”

“It is a strange celebration, because we have not been able to do it like normal, on the field, surrounded by other fans,” said Pablo Diaz, a 22-year-old fan. “We celebrate it but with a little fear, being careful, and wearing a mask.”

Hundreds of other fans had accompanied the team to Valladolid, where they watched the game on their phones in the car park outside the stadium.

After the match, Atletico’s ran out of the stadium to celebrate with the supporters they had not seen all season.