The fiery coach's current crop of players have what it takes to put the heartbreak of two years ago behind them, says Tim Stannard...
La Liga Loca generally has fairly pleasant dreams that drift back to the peaceful times of the blog’s yore. Those gentle slumbers at Getafe. The drug-addled raver in the onesie in the stands of Rayo Vallecano. The vomiting cat at Montjuic.
To its knowledge, LLL has never been kidnapped and then probed thoroughly by space aliens or had anything unduly traumatic happen to it. Therefore we’ve never woken up from a nightmare in the style of TV or film-land – bolt upright and gasping.
But LLL imagines that Diego Simeone does the same thing every night, playing back the accursed moment that the rising figure of Sergio Ramos took the Champions League trophy out of the Argentine’s imaginary hands with just seconds to spare.
At that moment, a victory for Atletico Madrid would have been enough for the club to simply disband. Football life could not get any better. A double, including a Champions League win over Real Madrid, would have been achieved. Every single season after that would simply be a let-down. Back in Lisbon, the Rojiblancos' ascendancy in the godly ranks of European clubs was still a beautiful oddity.
Joining the top table
On the eve of a Champions League final against Real Madrid once again, the feeling is considerably different, as if Atleti had always been part of the European elite and the club’s presence in Milan was not such a curiosity.
The Vicente Calderón club had been within one match of having a chance of winning the league title once again, and have overcome the super powers of Barcelona and Bayern Munich to reach the final in San Siro.
It's this success that has perhaps taken away a little bit of the sting of what was felt two years ago. Atlético’s rightful place in the elite of Europe means that a final defeat for Real Madrid would not be the complete end-of-the-world, Florentino-throwing-the-squad-into-a-sinkhole moment that it once was.
Of course, a loss would hardly be a pleasant experience and Atleti fans might bring the result up with Madridistas from time to time – like in between breaths – but the defeat will not be the complete humiliation that it once was.
A final defeat for Real Madrid would not be the complete end-of-the-world, Florentino-throwing-the-squad-into-a-sinkhole moment that it once was
A dish best served cold
Indeed, normally such a manifestation would spell instant vaporisation for any Real Madrid manager at the hands of Perez and his presidential death ray, orbiting high above Milan.
However, Zinedine Zidane’s position on the Santiago Bernabéu bench is fairly secure despite a dubious story from the Italian press that Florentino has been busy lining up Sevilla manager Unai Emery to take over, should matters go awry on Saturday night.
For one, LLL imagines that the three-time Europa League-winning coach spending 90 minutes willing Cristiano Ronaldo to move forwards/backwards/sideways three or four inches would soon grow tiresome to the Portuguese poacher.
This is one of the storylines that has been wheeled out to help boost a match that has already used up the ‘revenge’ narrative, after the Atleti players refused to spit on the ground and warn Real Madrid to get ready for a can of payback.
Indeed, such an attitude would not be that suitable to Simeone – Atlético are at their peak, cold and clinical as opposed to hot-headed and passionate.
Atlético’s temperament in the match is the key to victory. While Gareth Bale might have been unavoidably sniffy over comparing the two starting XIs when quizzed on the topic (see our feature for more on that one), the Rojiblancos possess by far the best team that has had the better of Real Madrid in past seasons and could well do again on Saturday.
The trick is for Atlético to follow the mantra set by Simeone from the start. Focus on the match, not the occasion, and play the game minute-by-minute with eyes never on the prize.
If Atlético are true to this philosophy then the team will prevail, and their coach will be sleeping considerably better at night. Anything else, and it will be yet more rude awakenings for their Argentine coach.