Real Madrid's emphatic win leaves Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone hoping for the 'unexpected'

The Atleti manager believes his side can overcome their first-leg defeat, but their chances of progression look slim

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The Independent Football

“Football is wonderful because unexpected things can happen,” Diego Simeone had attempted to argue at the Bernabeu late on Tuesday night, except, it seems, Atletico Madrid beating Real Madrid in a Champions League match. That looks like something that will never happen at this point.

This was the truly dispiriting about Simeone's press conference, too, after a thoroughly dispiriting 3-0 first-leg defeat at the feet of Cristiano Ronaldo. You could say that the Argentine was trying to strike a defiant tone in the aftermath, except his very demeanour suggested he didn’t feel all that defiant.

You could see in his face he didn't seem to believe they could actually do it, as seemed the case for many of his players throughout the first leg to actually leave Atletico and Simeone in this depressing position. That came across when he said they have a “minimal” chance - repeating it three times - and there were other less fanciful lines from the manager’s comments that better reflected the true, traumatic reality of this game for his club.

"The first half was imprecise from both teams," Simeone said. "There was always a sense of danger. We couldn't really advance.”

Well, while Atletico seemed oddly imprecise in almost everything they did - reflecting how tentative and hesitant they were about the game - Real were only really imprecise in front of goal, in a game they greatly dominated. There was instead always a sense of danger from the home side and Cristiano Ronaldo, and they could actually have been 3-0 up by the half-hour. That is why it is now almost impossible that Atletico advance.

What's more, you got the sense that the players felt that after the painfully searing second goal, let alone the third. As Ronaldo’s contrastingly forceful shot rose into the back of the net on 73 minutes, and the Bernabeu rose in jubilation, the heads of so many Atletico players so noticeably dropped.


They’d seen this before. They’d felt this before. Consider this illustrative statistic, that appears to further emphasise just how much of a complex Atletico have about their neighbours when it comes to this competition. Since first entering the Champions League in 2013-14, Simeone’s supreme tactics have ensured his side have conceded just 20 goals in 23 knock-out games, including two finals. Nine of them, however, have been scored by Real.

Adding even more on to it all, there was the fact that this was the night when Ronaldo himself ensured he has scored more Champions League goals - at 103 - than Atletico as a club, who have just 100. They need to at least make it 103 to somehow make the final in Cardiff despite this defeat.

Simeone spoke as if they could, but not in a way that suggested they would.

“We have Saturday to compete in the league,” the manager said. “Football is wonderful because unexpected things can happen. I think we still have options.”

Asked what he had said to the players, Simeone stated: ‘Recover, forget it, there's a game on Saturday. Football is marvellous and things can happen. We will give until the last drop.”

Football is wonderful because unexpected things can happen. I think we still have options.
Diego Simeone

The wonder is whether the last drop has been wrung out of this side. How many defeats like this can they take against their greatest rivals, their greatest source of pain?

“I am calm, more than ever,“ Simeone claimed. “We prepare Saturday, and try to do something impossible. But, as we're called Atletico Madrid, maybe we will be capable of doing it.”

Many would say the exact opposite, precisely because they're called Atletico Madrid and playing a team called Real Madrid.

The away supporters high up in the Bernabeu still sang the club’s name, long after the final whistle.

And why wouldn’t they? The tune hasn't changed elsewhere.

The song remains the same for this fixture.

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