Real Madrid seek Cup revenge against Atlético

Copa del Rey holders Atlético Madrid return to the scene where they won the trophy last year when they face Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday.

Real Madrid seek Cup revenge against Atlético
Photo: Pierre Phillipe Marcou/AFP

Atlético ended a 14-year run without a win against their city rivals with a 2-1 victory after extra-time in May.

Los Rojiblancos have kept that momentum going this season with another win over Real in their only meeting so far this season in La Liga back in September.

Atlético also became outright leaders in the league for the first time since their double-winning campaign in 1996 with a 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday.

However, despite Atleti's recent upturn in fortunes against Real, captain Gabi is aware of the challenge that faces them to make it back to the final.

"It is another opportunity that we have earned ourselves, to play against one of the best teams in the world," he told the club's website.

"To play in the final two consecutive years is very difficult to achieve. What this team has achieved until now has been thanks to our sacrifice, courage and union in the dressing room and we will take those qualities into the semi-final."

Whilst Atlético are in the midst of a 23-game unbeaten run, Real themselves have been in fine form of late and are unbeaten in 21 games.

Carlo Ancelotti's men's 10-game winning streak was brought to an end on Sunday though as they could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Athletic Bilbao.

Recently crowned Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off in that match for lashing out at Carlos Gurpegi 15 minutes from time, but the Portuguese is set to be free to face Atlético and serve his suspension solely in La Liga.

Ancelotti should also have Gareth Bale at his disposal as the Welshman has returned to training with his teammates after missing the last two games due to a calf injury.

Barcelona are also in semi-final action on Wednesday as they host Real Sociedad.

The Catalans will be looking to put their first defeat at the Camp Nou in the league since April 2012 behind them as they were sensationally beaten 3-2 by Valencia on Saturday.

Brazilian forward Neymar has stepped up his recovery from an ankle injury, but is not expected to be fit in time to take any part in the game.

Otherwise, Barca boss Gerardo Martino has a fully-fit squad to choose from and is looking for a reaction from his side.

"When you suffer a defeat the next match is always an opportunity to vindicate yourself,"he said.

"We don't need to just play well to wipe away what happened against Valencia, but because these 90 minutes will be important for the second leg in San Sebastian."

Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid (1900 GMT), Barcelona v Real Sociedad (2100 GMT)

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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.