A season of the unexpected for Atletico Madrid will end with a shot at a first Champions League title against its fiercest rival.
Having disrupted the established order of power in Spanish football, the capital's second club successfully negotiated its first European Cup semifinal in 40 years on Wednesday, overwhelming Chelsea F.C. 3-1 to setup a meeting with Real Madrid.
“They're a very powerful club used to those big European nights,'' Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. ``It's been many years for us as a club, so it'll be a new experience. But we're keen and excited.''
His side will also be undaunted by the prospect of facing the nine-time winners in the competition's first derby final. Simeone's side could be taking the Lisbon turf on May 24 as champions of Spain for the first time since 1996. Just two wins are required from the final three domestic matches to break up the Barcelona-Real Madrid stranglehold on the trophy.
“Playing like we play we are the strongest team in the world,'' Atletico midfielder Tiago said. ``And we deserve what we have in this moment.''
Although former Atletico striker Fernando Torres put Chelsea F.C. in front at Stamford Bridge after a scoreless first leg, Adrian Lopez leveled before halftime and Diego Costa netted a penalty on the hour before Arda Turan capped the visitors' second-half superiority with the third.
“We completely controlled the game against a great side,'' Simeone said through a translator.
It was a fourth successive semifinal loss for Jose Mourinho since winning the competition in 2010 with Inter Milan, after previous setbacks at Real Madrid before returning to manage Chelsea F.C. last year.
Without Mourinho, Madrid has ended a 12-year wait to reach a Champions League final after trouncing holder Bayern Munich 4-0 on Tuesday and 5-0 on aggregate.
After seeing Chelsea F.C. win the 2012 Champions League and 2013 Europa League from afar, Mourinho's first season back at the club could now end without a trophy. Although the Blues are second in the Premier League, they require leader Liverpool and third-place Manchester City, which has a game in hand, to slip-up in the final matches.
If Mourinho wanted to prove criticism of recent ultra-defensive tactics didn't affect him it came with the lineup, with six defenders in the starting eleven. In an anxious opening, Mark Schwarzer, deputizing in the Chelsea goal for the injured Petr Cech, was beaten in the fourth minute _ with only