Beauty vs. the Beast - Simeone out to end 42 years of hurt against Bayern and Pep
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Beauty vs. the Beast - Simeone out to end 42 years of hurt against Bayern and Pep
The semifinal tie will provide an interesting mix as two philosophies collide with a historical quirk that set the long-term fate of two clubs in motion.
Atletico Madrid’s Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich will be characterized by a clash of playing styles but also underpinned by an epic meeting between the two sides over four decades ago.

Bayern’s first rose to the summit of European football in 1974 when it thrashed Atleti 4-0 in the replay of the European Cup final in Brussels.

The Spaniards had stood on
the brink of glory in the initial fixture, with Luis Aragones having struck deep into the second half of extra time, only to be denied in the final seconds by Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck’s long-range thunderbolt. Demoralized, Atleti was obliterated in the replay two days later, with Uli Hoeness and Gerd Muller scoring twice each.

Not until Bayern had the trophy whisked from under its noses in 1999 by Manchester United would another team suffer such an equally painful defeat.

Manchester City et Real madrid
After denying Atletico, Bayern went on to win the European Cup in the two following seasons and has lifted the title five times in total – as many as Barcelona and fewer than only Real Madrid and AC Milan. Atleti, on the other hand, has remained an underdog on the continental stage, making a first return to the final in 2014 where the club again was denied at the death in heart-breaking fashion by city rival Real Madrid.

Forty-two years on from the famous final, Atletico and Bayern meet again, this time vying for a berth in May’s San Siro showpiece.

Their stories are reflected in their respective coaches. Bayern boasts Pep Guardiola, considered a refined innovator of the modern game, while in the Atleti dugout is Diego Simeone, a terrier of a boss who has a track record of extracting the most from limited resources. Both sides not only echo how their respective coaches played during their younger days, but also represent the image of their clubs.

Bayern plays pretty, intricate possession-based football. Atletico is gritty, defensive, at times brash but thoroughly effective. Neutrals may broadly favor the artistry of the Germans over the brawn of the Spaniards, but neither method should be scorned; they are both equally valid routes to success. The two styles, like the philosophies of their two coaches, are totally at odds.

Expectation levels at the Allianz Arena and Vicente Calderon are very different, also. For Guardiola, there is a demand to lead Bayern to continental success before he departs for Manchester City in the summer. There is also pressure on the Spaniard to prove that he can claim such a prize away from his spiritual home of Camp Nou. Simeone, meanwhile, bears no such weight. Atleti is seen as a perennial overachiever, persistently making a mockery of its more illustrious rivals’ greater financial clout, both at home and abroad.

The Argentine may have successfully driven his side to punch above its weight on a habitual basis, but Guardiola is a foe he has yet to master. Only twice before has Simeone been pitted against the Catalan, but his first experience was a chastening 5-0 loss that was followed later in the 2011-12 season by a narrower 2-1 defeat.

However, Simeone showed in the quarterfinals that he has the ability to overcome such problems. Luis Enrique’s Barcelona, a team conceived by Guardiola nearly a decade ago, had recorded seven straight victories over Atleti before being dumped out of the competition by an Antoine Griezmann double in the second leg.

The beast has proven regularly in the past that it can master beauty. If Simeone does so on this occasion, it will provide sweet revenge for 42 years of hurt and edge the Madrid club closer to a first ever European crown. (c)


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