Atleti target derby revenge in Copa del Rey final

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Atletico Madrid haven't had to wait too long for the chance to exact some payback on neighbor Real Madrid.

The dust barely had time to settle on Los Blancos' 2-1 Liga victory over Atleti last month at the Vicente Calderon before manager Diego Simeone looked to Friday night's Copa del Rey final clash as a chance for redemption.

"We will have another opportunity to beat Real on May 17," Simeone said immediately after the match. "We were closer than ever and there will be one match when the losing streak finally ends."

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Atleti saw a golden opportunity to end their 14 years of bad fortune against their "big brother" on home soil in April when Simeone's men host a much-changed Blancos side in the league. They couldn't jump on it.

The Bernabeu club had held the upper hand over Los Colchoneros for a staggering 14 years in the buildup to that match -- Atleti had not managed a simple win in that time. Simeone's men had been enjoying one of their best seasons for some time. They were at home. They were facing a Merengues side without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil.

Yet still they could not end those 14 years of hurt. The curse of El Derbi had continued for Atleti. It hurt, of course, but it was not entirely surprising.

So what better time for Atletico to end those painful years than in a cup final, which is technically on Real's turf. Some of those wearing the red and white may not have even been born the previous time Atleti enjoyed victory in El Derbi. They'll be hoping good things come to those who wait.

This will be a different match to the one that saw Madrid claim a 2-1 victory over Atleti in La Liga at the end of last month. In that one, Atleti had the rare taste of being favourites for the match. Jose Mourinho's men were preparing for their Champions League semifinal second-leg clash against Dortmund. Players were rested. Eyes, for the most part, were elsewhere.

But Atleti buckled under the pressure of being expected to end their long wait for local bragging rights. A different pressure, but pressure nevertheless.

This time, with hopes of La Decima put to bed for this season and La Liga long gone, Mourinho's men will be favourites. A trophyless season is frowned upon in all corners of the Bernabeu, and although Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup on away goals, they are yet to claim one of the "big three."

Madrid wanted to lift the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey cups this season, arguably in that order. The first two may be gone, but Los Blancos will be out to finish on a high, dancing around the Cibeles fountain.

Mourinho also will be keen to depart the Spanish capital with the Copa del Rey to his name for a second time. The "Special One" is expected to depart for Chelsea this summer, and this will be his chance to show that this season has not been a complete write-off.

It'll be interesting, therefore, to see the players he picks for what is expected to be his last meaningful match in charge of Madrid. The last chance to lift a trophy. The last chance for some glory.

We can all expect to see Diego Lopez in goal with Iker Casillas once again stuck on the bench, but Mourinho may well have to go with Pepe in defence, despite his countryman defending Casillas and feeling the wrath of Mourinho in recent weeks.

Raphael Varane, one of the bright spots of Madrid's season, is sidelined by injury; that should mean Pepe will start alongside Sergio Ramos in the heart of the Madrid defence.

The Copa del Rey was one trophy David Beckham failed to win while wearing the all-white of Madrid. The former Manchester United, AC Milan and LA Galaxy player announced his retirement from football on Thursday after an illustrious career.

Beckham was very much part of the Galactico era at Madrid, spending four years at the Bernabeu after moving to the Spanish capital from Manchester United. In addition to boosting the club's commercial income, Beckham was one of the most popular players, and ended his stay on a high, winning La Liga in 2007.

It started in dramatic fashion, too, with United announcing they had reached an agreement with Barcelona for the midfielder's services. His destination was the Spanish capital, however, and he was handed the No. 23 shirt because of his admiration for NBA star Michael Jordan -- and his usual No. 7 jersey was already on the back of Madrid favourite Raul, anyway.

Beckham actually had fallen out of the good books of manager Fabio Capello in his final season in charge but, in typical Beckham fashion, worked his way back onto the first team to finish with a league title to his name.

Whether for his football abilities or star qualities, David Beckham's name will be etched in the history of Real Madrid.

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