Raul Garcia

Fernando Torres makes Atletico Madrid return in Copa del Rey victory over Real Madrid

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Fernando Torres is back (for better or for worse, Atletico Madrid fans), baby.

Torres, who came up through Atletico’s youth academy and made his first-team debut all the way back in May 2001, was signed permanently by AC Milan last week and subsequently loaned back to his boyhood club on a deal that runs through the end of the 2015-16 season.

On Wednesday, Torres made his debut, part deux, for Atletico Madrid in a 2-0 first-leg victory over city rivals Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the 2014-15 Copa del Rey. The former Liverpool and Chelsea star started the game and played 59 minutes before making way for substitute Koke.

[ RELATED: 45,000 people show up to see Torres re-introduced as an Atleti player ]

Atletico’s goals came from midfielder Raul Garcia (penalty kick, 58th minute) and defender Jose Gimenez, who scored a powerful header from a corner kick in the 76th minute. Leg two will be played at the Santiago Benabeu Stadium on Thursday, January 15 (2 pm ET).

Wednesday’s game is one most Atleti supporters won’t soon forget — unless the second leg goes all wrong, of course — but the same can’t be said for Torres’s performance on the day. Hauled off just before the hour mark, the Spaniard never really looked like a threat to score. Stats database website WhoScored.com rated Torres performance at 6.38 (out of 10), third-lowest of Atletico’s 11 starters.

[ LA LIGA: Atleti squarely in title race as Real, Barcelona lose this weekend

Torres registered zero shots, a 55.6-percent (5-of-9) passing success rate, including one key pass, two fouls committed, three fouls suffered and was flagged for being offside three times.

Early struggles are to be expected of any player moving to a “new” team, granted. But considering Torres’s form since leaving Liverpool in 2011, it’s perhaps unrealistic to expect him to suddenly turn things around after wallowing on Chelsea and Milan’s bench for the better part of the last two years.

Preview: Atlético, Real bring Madrid derby to Champions League final in Lisbon

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Welcome, friends, to the 265th edition of the Madrid Derby. Only this time, it’s being played out in Lisbon, Portugal, where Atlético Madrid meet Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

This final boasts a wealth of storylines. There’s the über-rich vs. the “scrappy startups”, which rather falls apart when you realize Atléti’ have won La Liga and the Copa del Rey ten times, have hoisted the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and, most recently, won the Europa League, in both 2010 and 2012. Real, however, certainly are rich, as demonstrated most recently when spending over 100m on Gareth Bale.

Then we’ve got the recent injuries that have struck both sides. Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 31 goals in La Liga and 16 in the Champions League, hasn’t played since May 7th, when he took himself off in what was ultimately a draw with Valladolid. Most believe the superstar will start – which is more than can be said for Atlético’s top scorer. Diego Costa, with 8 UCL goals and 27 in the league, started last week’s title decider against Barcelona. However, he pulled up after just 15 minutes with a hamstring tear. His outlook, however, might not be as bleak as previously thought.

Plus, this final boasts of a fantastic duel of the nicknames: it’s Real’s Los Merengues (The Meringues) taking on Atléti’s Los Colchoneros (The Mattress-Makers). I think we know who wins this one.

Kickoff in Lisbon is on Saturday, May 24 at 2:45 p.m. ET. You won’t want to miss this one.

How they got here

Real: Their second-place finish in Spain assured Real direct entry into the group stage. Los Blancos easily topped their group, losing points only to Juventus, and moved on to face Schalke. Real made the German side cry (most likely literally) with a 9-2 aggregate win. Last year’s runners’ up proved tougher, but Los Merengues beat Borussia Dormund 3-2…only to find themselves up against last year’s winners, Bayern Munich. It was a tough first leg but Real destroyed the German side in the second, ultimately winning 5-0 on aggregate.

Atléti: After finishing third in La Liga last season, Atléti went directly into the group stages, where they won five and picked up sixteen points total. Los Colchoneros had no trouble seeing off AC Milan in the Round of 16, beating the Italian side 5-1 on aggregate. Next up came fellow La Liga opponents Barcelona, but Atlético were able to hold them to just one goal to move on to the semi-finals. There they encountered Chelsea, whose double-parked bus kept Atlético out in the first leg, but broke down in the second. Undefeated throughout the tournament, Atléti are hoping to become the first side since 2008 to lift the trophy without a loss.

What to watch for

The battle between Real’s potent attack and Atlético’s clinical defending. The latter have one of the best defenses in all of Europe, evidenced not just by their conceding only 26 goals in their 38 La Liga matches, but by the fact that only six goals were scored against them during the Champions League tournament. They’re tough, they’re physical, they’re very near relentless.

But Los Merengues are one of the few sides that have taken Atléti to task this season. However, they did it in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, winning 5-0 over two legs, while Atlético won once in the league, and the two sides played out a 2-2 draw in their last meeting. Real have one of the best offenses in the world, particularly if both Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are fit to start alongside Bale. Ángel di María, who notched the most assists in La Liga this season, and Luka Modrić, one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world, will also be on hand to ensure their forwards have plenty of scoring opportunities.

If they can unlock Atléti’s well-executed plans, that is.

Projected Lineups

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Iker Casillas; Dani Carvajal, Raphaël Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Luka Modrić, Asier Illarramendi, Ángel di María; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

Atlético Madrid (4-2-3-1):  Thibaut Courtois; Juanfran, Diego Godín, Miranda, Filipe Luís; Gabi, Tiago Mendes; Arda Turan, Raúl Garcia, Koke; David Villa


Real Madrid to finally clinch La Décima. Los Merengues have been chasing their 10th European Cup since 2002. This will finally be the year that all their hard work (and hard spending) pays off.

Atlético Madrid make a statement before Champions League matchup against Milan

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On Friday night, Mario Balotelli scored an absolutely fantastic goal to ensure AC Milan grabbed a late winner against Bologna. The rossoneri are currently tenth in the Serie A table after a less than spectacular first half of the season, but – aside from a rather limp loss against Napoli last weekend – are starting to come to life under new coach Clarence Seedorf. It looks like they just might be able to put up a fight against Atlético Madrid in their upcoming midweek Champions League game.

In fact, it looked like it might be all too easy for Milan to advance to the next round. After all, Atleti had just lost 5-0 over two legs of their Copa del Rey semifinal, falling to city rivals Real Madrid. In between, they fell 2-0 to Almeria, who’ve been struggling in La Liga. Were Atlético, who’d been fighting for first for much of the season, finally set to slide?

Well, don’t count out Diego Simeone’s men just yet. On Saturday afternoon, they dismantled Real Valladolid. Raúl García opened the scoring after just three minutes, off a free kick from Gabi. Just a minute later and Diego Costa had one in the back of the net, García helping out with the long ball up the pitch. Diego Godín added a third deep in the second half, heading on a corner from Diego Ribas.

Sure, it may be just a solid win over a team struggling to avoid relegation. But for Atelti, who temporarily take top with those three points, it just might mean an infusion of confidence, a boost that allows them to go to Milan and emerge with an impressive win.

Diego Costa baffles Getafe with bicycle kick goal in 7-0 win

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It looked a bit awkward, but in a 7-0 thrashing of Getafe, it was Diego Costa who stole the headlines.

The 25-year-old Brazilian baffled his mark, substitute defender Arroyo, when he posted up for a bit of an awkward bicycle kick in the 69th minute, but no matter how it looked the ball ended up in the back of the net.

It appeared Costa wanted to instead try a scissor kick, but with the ball too high, he made the decision at the last possible minute to throw his body at the cross from Gabi.

All Arroyo could do was throw his hands in the air after the goal, the fifth of the match that would ultimately see David Villa and Raul Garcia each bag a brace.

The match also saw an own goal by the home side as well as a second yellow for Getafe defender Valera.

Have a watch: