Simeone under scrutiny
MADRID. — Of all Diego Simeone’s achievements during his career at the Vicente Calderon, one stands head and shoulders above the rest in the hearts and minds of Colchoneros: bringing an end to Real Madrid’s 14-year hegemony in the capital city derby.
Before the Argentinean instilled his brand of one-for-all football into Atletico, there were three certainties in the life of a Rojiblanco season-ticket holder: death, taxes and losing to Real Madrid.
That Simeone ended almost a decade-and-a-half of humiliation in the Bernabeu in the 2012-13 Copa del Rey final made it all the sweeter for Atletico fans. El Cholo wasn’t finished there. Atletico claimed a first Spanish championship since 1995-96 the following season and beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu en route, their first league success on their rivals’ turf since 1999-00 and the beginning of a six-game Liga unbeaten streak encompassing four wins and two draws.
However, Simeone’s Midas touch has not translated into knock-out competitions. Real Madrid and Atletico have faced each other five times in cup fixtures since the 2013 Bernabeu final and Real have come out on top in all but one, a 4-2 aggregate defeat in the Copa del Rey in 2014-15. That went some way to Atletico avenging a 5-0 drubbing over 180 minutes the previous season, but it is in Europe that Simeone’s side have suffered most.
In each of the past three campaigns, Real Madrid have beaten Atletico in the Champions League. Two of those games were played over 120 minutes in the final, Atletico losing both in crushing circumstances. Last year’s defeat on penalties in Milan led Simeone to some serious introspection, and in Lisbon two seasons earlier his side had one hand on the trophy.
Tonight’s game is another matter entirely, and if Atletico go through it will be Simeone’s greatest accomplishment to date bar none. — ESPN.