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Ledwith: Neymar must step up

Barcelona 7 days ago
Read
 Posted by Joseph Walker
Aug 18, 2014

Atleti's early chance for Real revenge

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simone says Real's success is purely down to their financial clout ahead of the pair's Spanish Super Cup game.

Revenge: the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at his or her hands.

For Atletico Madrid, the time to exact just that has come. On May 24, Atleti were two minutes from glory in the Champions League final. After holding off their more illustrious, expensively assembled and overpaid Galactico opponents for such a long time, one lapse in concentration and all their hard work was undone.

- Walker: Atleti need firepower
- Train: Early games will test Real resolve

Suffering at the hands of Real Madrid in the most heartbreakingly dramatic of circumstances in front of hundreds of millions of people means the wounds are still sore.

As Sergio Ramos' header hit the back of the net, Atleti knew it was over. Maybe not immediately -- this team is the epitome of never say die -- but as the minutes passed and cramps set in, they could sense the dream would have to be put on hold. The look of anguish etched across the faces of Diego Costa and Cebolla Rodriguez as the camera panned to the Atletico bench in the immediate aftermath told the full story.

A bigger squad with fresher legs and a crucial shift of momentum did in Los Colcherones that night in Lisbon. Now fans, players and manager alike will be determined to send a message, lay down an early marker and have their retribution. Admittedly it's only a modicum of retribution; after all, what is winning the Spanish Super Cup compared to denying your archrival its fabled Decima?

Diego Simeone will get an early chance to lay down a marker for the new season when his Atleti side faces its neighbour in the Super Cup final.

Of course, Diego Simeone would not have you believe this is the case. "This match doesn't deserve a single tear," said the Argentine in his post-Champions League final news conference in the Portuguese capital. "When you give everything, you cannot ask for more. There is another team and other players out there, and that is football."

Deep down, he will be delighted the footballing gods have decided that the Rojiblancos' first competitive game since that cruel May evening comes against their city neighbour. It is just the kind of warrior that Simeone is. He showed it relentlessly as a tenacious central midfielder and displays it as he prowls the touchline as a coach. He will relish the chance to get one over on Real Madrid just as much as any of the club's players and fans.

What is unusual in this fixture is that the league winner goes into the match against the cup winner as the overwhelming underdog. The common consensus is that it is Real Madrid's trophy to lose. On the face of it, you can see why.

The two sides could not have had more contrasting summers in the transfer market. Atleti lost their two best players from last season in top scorer Costa and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. While they have spent wisely and secured high-quality replacements, these signings have largely been funded by player sales.

Conversely, the European champion has spent big on World Cup stars Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas and lavished a monumental amount of money on the tournament's standout player James Rodriguez.

"With 95 million euros we have signed nine players, and they get two. There is a small difference in the clubs," Simeone said tongue in cheek when previewing Tuesday's game, highlighting the financial disparity between the two sides from the Spanish capital.

ALL-TIME HIGHEST TRANSFER FEES

1) £85m Gareth Bale -- Tottenham to Real Madrid, Sept. 2013

2) £80m Cristiano Ronaldo -- Man Utd to R Madrid, June 2009

3) £75m Luis Suarez -- Liverpool to Barcelona, July 2014

4) £71m James Rodriguez -- Monaco to Real Madrid, July 2014

5) £59.7m Angel Di Maria -- R Madrid to Man Utd, August 2014

6) £56m Kaka -- AC Milan to Real Madrid, June 2009

It is therefore rather surprising that Atletico have looked far stronger in preseason. You cannot read too much into what some would call glorified training sessions, but Simeone will take heart from the fact that his side has gone through seven friendlies undefeated. Atletico have also built on their defensive solidity of last season, conceding just once (in a 5-1 demolition of Wolfsburg) and bedding in nine new players across the park.

Real, on the other hand, have lost all of their warm-up games. Inter Milan, Roma, Manchester United and Fiorentina have all got the better of Los Blancos this summer. In particular, Saturday's game in Warsaw, Poland, against La Viola showed that the side's back line is far from secure.

That is something Mario Mandzukic, Arda Turan, Antoine Griezmann and Koke can exploit as the club looks to gain momentum going into its La Liga title defence.

The public might feel Real Madrid are going to win at a canter, but the power of revenge should never be underestimated. Neither should Atletico Madrid. Write them off at your peril.

Joseph Walker

Joseph is a sports journalist based in the Spanish capital and can regularly be seen in the Vicente Calderon press box trying not to celebrate when Atletico Madrid score. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_in_espana.

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