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Atlético through to all-Madrid final, eliminates Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

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This year’s final will be an all-Madrid affair after Atlético Madrid’s win at Stamford Bridge set up the biggest Derbi Madrileño in history. With goals from Adrián López, Diego Costa, and Arda Turan reversing Fernando Torres’s first half opener, La Liga’s leaders marauded into next month’s final, with the Colchoneros’ 3-1 win leaving Atlético to battle rival Real Madrid for this year’s UEFA Champions League  title.

Torres opened the scoring in the 36th minute after his shot from 10 yards out found a defender’s leg on its way toward goal. Just before halftime, Atlético responded through Adrían López, with a second half penalty conversion by Diego Costa putting the visitors in front. Just under 20 minutes from time, Arda Turan’s goal from just outside the six-yard box eliminated all doubt Diego Simeone’s side would reach its first final in 40 years.

Having eliminated the 2011-12 champions, Atlético is one step away from the team’s first European title, with only the club’s biggest rivals standing in its way. After a 4-0 win yesterday in Munich, Real Madrid earned its right to compete for a 10th European title, doing its part to set up the first inner-city matchup in a Champions League final.

More: Three things we learned from Atlético’s win in London

Atlético nearly claimed its away goal in the fifth minute when the second ball in from a corner saw Koke test Mark Schwarzer’s woodwork. Attempting to play a cleared ball back into the six-yard box, the Atleti midfielder’s chip cleared the Chelsea keeper and went off the crossbar. After coming down and hitting Gary Cahill, the ball sailed back over the bar, leaving the match scoreless.

After a half-hour of Chelsea control in an otherwise even game, the Blues got on the board. With a run from the middle of the field, Willian streaked behind the defense’s left and onto a through ball rolled toward the corner. Cesar Azpilicueta, getting a surprise start at right wing, ran into the vacated space and onto his teammate’s pass, where the Spaniard found Torres 10 yards from goal. The former Atlético striker declined to celebrate after his one-timed shot deflected into the left of goal, leaving Thiabult Courtois no chance to prevent the tie’s opening goal.

The home side’s lead would only last eight minutes, however, thanks to a lapse by Eden Hazard. In the 44th, the Colchoneros moved the ball from deep on the left back toward the middle, where Tiago found Koke racing past Hazard toward the far post. A cross volleyed across the six by Koke found Adrián at the other upright, with the forward’s shot bouncing into the top corner for the away goal.

More: Jose Mourinho blames “injuries, suspensions” as Chelsea come up short

source: AP
Chelsea players wait to kick off after Diego Costa gave Atlético Madrid a 2-1 lead at Stamford Bridge. (Photo: AP Photos.)

Eight minutes into the second half, Chelsea nearly went back in front when a restart from Willian met John Terry near the penalty spot. The captain’s header was hit well toward Courtois’ line, but the Chelsea loanee was able to get down to his left to maintain Atlético’s edge.

In the 59th minute, Samuel Eto’o committed the error that sealed Chelsea’s fate. Taking down Costa just inside the penalty area, the Cameroonian, who had just come on five minutes earlier, gave the Spanish international a chance from the spot. After drawing a yellow card while having trouble placing the ball, Costa finished high into the left side of goal, giving Atlético a 2-1 lead.

Five minutes later, David Luiz’s header off another Willian restart went off Courtois’s right post, giving the Bridge faithful hope their side was prepared to respond. In the 71st minute, however, Atlético was able to recreate its first goal, with a Juanfran’s run behind Hazard producing an opportunity for Arda Turan, who put the day’s final score into the right side of goal.

More: Your Champions League Final: Real Madrid goes for No. 10; Atlético goes for No. 1

With the 3-1 win, Atlético Madrid completes the first ever Champions League final between clubs from the same city. It’s also the second time two Spanish clubs have played for Europe’s title and the fifth time teams from the same federation will play for club soccer’s most prestigious honor.

On May 24 in Lisbon, however, most of those finer details will be irrelevant. The battle for Madrid will be in focus, as will Real Madrid’s quest for its coveted decima at its rival’s expense.

For Atlético, however, Lisbon will give the club a chance to finish its quick rise to European elite. Beat their rivals at the Estadio da Luz, and Atleti will claim their first Champoins League title.

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

England v Norway - International Friendly
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GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.