Simeone takes his table-topping side to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night having won their last two games over Real and he will hope to further etch his name into the history books as he continues to excel at the helm of the Vicente Calderón.
Having already led Atletico to the Copa Del Rey last season, his team will play tomorrow night with an unprecedented feeling of power, accompanied by a sense of equality with their mega-rich counterparts. Following Barcelona’s surprise loss at home to Valencia on Saturday, Atletico emphatically dismissed Real Sociedad 4-0 and topped the La Liga table for the first time in 18 years in the process. That victory, along with their triumph over Real Madrid in the 2013 Copa Del Rey final has instilled a sense of belief which Real will find hard to diminish.
Atletico Madrid are now unbeaten in their last 23 matches in all competitions and can no longer be considered underdogs coming into the derby match. More significantly, they have conducted their business at the top of the Spanish league with such style and consistency that people are really beginning to believe that this will be the team to finally break the Real Madrid-Barcelona duopoly at the summit of Spanish football. The last team to pip the two giants to the title were Valencia under the guidance of Rafael Benetiz in 2004. A decade on, Atletico now look determined to surpass all expectations and clinch their first league title in.
The Copa Del Rey clash tomorrow night will provide yet another stern examination of character for Simeone’s men and will signify a landmark step in the glorious renaissance of Atletico, should they win. A victory would immortalise this Rojoblancos side as legends in the history of El Derbi Madrileno.
They will have to do it against Real side, however, who will be hungry for redemption following a frustrating draw against Athletic Bilbao which saw them drop two crucial points in the race for the title and Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo being sent off. Failing to capitalise on Barcelona’s defeat to Valencia in the manner that their rivals did can only warrant a reaction synonymous with Real’s might tomorrow night. Another disappointing performance will be unacceptable. Another defeat to their neighbours, however, will be unforgivable.
Ronaldo is expected to feature against Atletico though as his suspension does not apply to the cup competition and may play alongside Gareth Bale, following his return from a calf injury.
Atletico will welcome back playmaker Arda Turan to the set-up but are expected to be without David Villa, who picked up a thigh injury during Sunday’s win over Sociedad.
Diego Simeone has already achieved a great deal with Ateltico Madrid, but adding three consecutive victories over Real Madrid will rank highly alongside Europa League and Copa Del Rey triumphs in his list of managerial achievements. The complexion of the Spanish game has officially changed now; Atletico are at the top and aim to do everything in their power to stay there.