Sime­one rab­ble-rouses Los Ro­ji­blan­cos

New Straits Times - - Sport -

For the first time last week’s first leg truly showed the gulf that still ex­ists be­tween the sides in terms of re­sources.

Real’s fi­nan­cial mus­cle even threat­ens to break up this Atletico side.

Theo Her­nan­dez looks set to be­come the first player to cross the Madrid di­vide since 2000 this summer. A move for the 19-yearold is seen as Real’s first step to break­ing a gentle­man’s agree­ment not to poach Atletico’s best play­ers ahead of a bid to snatch their top scorer An­toine Griez­mann in 2018.

“Tell me how does it feel,” said a huge ban­ner re­leased from the Real fans be­fore kick-off at the Bern­abeu last Tues­day along­side signs for Lis­bon and Mi­lan, the two cities where Atletico lost to Real in the fi­nal in the past three years.

And yet as the sta­dium emp­tied nearly two hours later, it was the Atletico fans, beaten but un­bowed, who sang the club’s an­them into the night.

That scene was re­peated as the Atletico fans stayed be­hind af­ter Satur­day’s 1-0 win over Eibar, de­mand­ing the team re­turn to the pitch from the dress­ing room to ser­e­nade them with chants of “proud of our play­ers.”

That loy­alty in the face of ad­ver­sity is in con­trast to the de­mands put upon Real play­ers.

Even af­ter scor­ing hat-tricks against Bay­ern Mu­nich in the quar­ter-fi­nals and Atletico last week, Real’s all-time top goalscorer Cris­tiano Ron­aldo said “all he wanted” from the home fans was not to be jeered.

“Know how to win, know how to lose, #th­ey­can­no­tun­der­stand” Atletico posted point­edly on the club’s Twit­ter feed on Sun­day.

“Don’t stop be­liev­ing,” has also been a con­sis­tent em­blem of Sime­one’s time in charge of Atletico. And the Ar­gen­tine has been re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive over

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