Real dream of history with 3-0 lead

MADRID • Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insists the European champions will not be cowered by an intimidating atmosphere as they visit Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon today.

The Spanish football giants are looking to seal their place in the Champions League final once more and enjoy a commanding 3-0 first-leg lead.

And Ramos hit back at the simplification of the rivalry between the two Madrid teams as Real's riches against Atletico's hard work.

"It seems like we have grown up in Beverly Hills," he said yesterday. "Here there are people from humble backgrounds too. The sacrifice is what fills you with desire to win."

An already intense rivalry has reached new levels in recent seasons, as Atletico's status and ability to challenge Real have grown under manager Diego Simeone.

However, the red and white side of Madrid has consistently fallen short against Real in the Champions League.

Unless they pull off a remarkable comeback, Atletico will bow out of European competition against their fiercest rivals for the fourth consecutive season.

Said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez: "We have to give everything and make sure the fans go home proud of their players, whether we go through or not."

However, the size of Atletico's task is illustrated by the fact that Real have scored in all their last 60 games stretching back over a year.

"We know it is very difficult, but we need to go step-by-step, we need to keep a clean sheet," Saul said. "If they score, the tie is even more difficult, but a goal in the first half would give us a lot of strength and could make them nervous."

Real are on the verge of completing one of the most glorious season in the club's decorated history.

Zinedine Zidane's men are three games away from a first league title in five years and, should they complete a LaLiga and Champions League double, it will be Real's first since the 1957-58 season.

Moreover, they could become the first side in the Champions League era to retain the trophy.

Gareth Bale remains sidelined with a calf injury, while Atletico's injury crisis at right-back is expected to be resolved by the return of Juanfran after three weeks out.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Real dream of history with 3-0 lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe