18+ | Commercial Content | T&Cs apply | Begambleaware.org
Real Madrid meet Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night knowing their path to the Champions League final is all but secured.
Zinédine Zidane’s side secured a 3-0 win in the first leg last week thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.
And it would take a miracle at the Estadio Vicente Calderón for Atleti to reach their third Champions League final in four years.
It will also be the third time in four seasons that Diego Simeone’s team have been knocked out by their cross-city rivals.
And that isn’t only down to tactics.
A psychological edge
Since the 2013/14 season, the two sides have met 19 times.
Atleti have won seven of them, Real Madrid have won six and there have been six draws.
It looks pretty tight, with Atleti just having the edge.
And indeed, if Real Madrid win tonight, in the last 20 meetings between the duo, it will be even – seven wins each.
But that is hugely skewed by the psychological advantage Real Madrid hold over Atleti in Europe.
Simeone’s side just can’t beat them, no matter how well they play or what they do.
They should have won the Champions League final in 2014.
The 4-1 scoreline is hugely misleading, needing a late Sergio Ramos equaliser to take the game to extra time.
And in the 2016 Champions League final, it went down to penalties to knock Atleti out.
But it wasn’t just the two Champions League finals where Real Madrid sent their city rivals out of the Champions League, it was in the 2014/15 season too, at the quarter final stage.
In fact, should Real Madrid knock Atletico Madrid out of the Champions League tomorrow night, it will be the fourth consecutive year they have ended their rivals’ European dreams.
The Champions League record between the pair reads as following: played: five, Real Madrid wins: four, draws: one.
Atleti just can’t beat them in Europe’s elite continental competition.
READ MORE: Real Madrid 3-0 Atlético Madrid: 5 Things We Learned
In fact, if you take the European games out of the meetings between the pair since the 2013/14 season, Atleti have won seven, while Real have won just two.
They can beat them in every other competition – Los Colchoneros knocked Zidane’s side out of the Copa del Rey in 2015, and beat them in the 2014 Super Copa – but just not the Champions League.
Before last week’s first leg of the semi final, Simeone’s side was unbeaten in 11 games, conceding only four goals in their previous 12 matches in all competitions.
But they still lost 3-0.
And that must be down to a mental block now, and that’s something former Valencia boss Pako Ayesterán thinks is the case.
“After a period when Diego Simeone seemed to have finally broken the mental hold that Real Madrid had over the fixture, when Atletico kept winning and winning the fixture in the domestic league, Real Madrid then responded by beating them in ever more psychologically demanding ways in the Champions League: with late goals and then finally a penalty shoot-out,” he wrote in The Independent.
Despite that, Zidane denies his side have a psychological advantage.
“It means nothing that we've beaten them in this competition,” he said when speaking before the first leg.
Whether he truly believes that or not is uncertain.
You would imagine he was just trying to make sure his players didn’t believe they had won the tie before stepping out on the pitch.
Consequences outside of Europe
Perhaps, after Atleti’s recent dominance in the league, Los Blancos’ dominance in Europe could affect the two teams domestically too.
While they may have drawn 1-1 in their last league meeting, the previous one was a 3-0 win for Real Madrid in the last ever match between the Vicente Calderón.
And with Marca reporting Theo Hernández is set to leave the red and white side of Madrid for the white side, it looks like the moment where Atleti dominated Real in everything but Europe is over.
READ MORE: Theo Hernández: Worth Upsetting The Neighbours
While the move for a left-back currently on loan away from the Vicente Calderón who probably won’t displace Marcelo may not seem a major deal, the fact Real Madrid are poaching an Atleti youngster – and one, with so many connections to the club, given his brother plays there – could have huge ramifications.
It feels like it’s Los Merengues saying your time is over, we’re back in charge now, get back in your box.
It has upset directors at the Vicente Calderón, as it has broken the pact between the two clubs not to go after each other’s players, but Real Madrid won’t care.
They’ve shown in recent years in Europe that they are a dominant force in the Spanish capital – they now have 11 European Cups, compared to Atleti, who are yet to win the continent’s top club competition.
And that dominance in Europe is starting to pay off elsewhere too.
Former Atleti youth player David De Gea is a Real Madrid transfer target too, and if him and Hernández arrive, along with Zidane’s side knocking Los Rojiblancos out of the Champions League, it will really feel like they are the dominant force in the Spanish capital, despite Simeone’s sides best efforts.