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Atletico seek Real revenge in quarter final

Last season's Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid meet for the seventh time this season in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final, first leg with revenge in mind for both.

Atletico seek Real revenge in quarter final
Atletico de Madrid vs Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, February 7th, 2015. Photo: Cesar Manso / AFP

Real took the spoils in Lisbon last May as Sergio Ramos's stoppage time header denied Atletico their first ever European Cup and sent the game into extra time when Los Blancos romped to a 4-1 win.

However, the tables have been turned this season as Atletico have won four and drawn two of the six meetings so far this season.

That run has included two aggregate victories over two legs in the Spanish Supercup and the Copa del Rey.

Yet, it was their last encounter in La Liga in February that was the most embarrassing for Real as Atletico romped to their biggest victory in a Madrid derby for 28 years in a 4-0 rout.

"The last result against Atletico is a motivating factor for us," said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti.

"It will be a different game, but difficult as it always is against Atletico.

"We come into the game in good form, we are motivated and we will give everything we have.   

"I don't have any doubt that it will be an intense game.

"That will be an important component of the game, but there will also be others that we need to utilise."

However, unlike that most recent meeting at the Vicente Calderon when they were without five first-team regulars, Real are at full strength for the first time in five months.

James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos return from suspension after missing Saturday's 3-0 win over Eibar which moved Real back to within two points of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Meanwhile, Gareth Bale returned to training on Sunday and is expected to fit to start.

Atletico have received a huge injury boost of their own with the news that Mario Mandzukic will be available after overcoming an ankle problem which kept him out of their last two games.

The Croatian has scored 20 goals since signing from Bayern Munich last summer, including two in three games against Madrid at the Calderon.

Raul Garcia is also expected to recover from an elbow problem meaning Diego Simeone will also have a fully-fit squad to choose from.

However, the Argentine has a number of key decisions to make, most notably in goal where the in-form Jan Oblak kept his place ahead of the fit again Miguel Angel Moya for Saturday's 2-2 draw at Malaga and in central defence where Jose Maria Gimenez and Miranda will battle it out to partner Diego Godin.

The draw at Malaga extended Atletico's unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games, albeit with four draws along the way.

Most encouragingly for Simeone's men is the return to goalscoring form of Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman scored twice at La Rosaleda to take his tally over the last three games to four and move one ahead of Mandzukic at Atletico's top scorer this season.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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