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This Champions League final could define Atletico Madrid for years to come

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The game on Saturday with fierce rivals Real offers los Rojiblancos a golden opportunity to rewrite history

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Two finals. Two last minute equalisers. Two heart breaking losses for Atleti. This upcoming Champions League final isn't a chance for revenge for Diego Simeone's men. In fact, you can be rest assured that neither the team talks nor tactical advice will include any mention of what happened in Lisbon two years ago.

Those that were involved with los Rojiblancos in 2014 may find themselves in a similar situation on Saturday, playing in a Madrid derby in the biggest game of club football, but they won't be set on avenging the defeat in 2014. The fixture isn't about revenge because it's about something much bigger for Atletico.

Most clubs would be jealous of los Colcheneros history, having played in two European Cup finals. Though they lost both matches, even participating in such a monumental game is something that shouldn't be taken lightly. It's a proud achievement, even if the stench of being runners-up takes a while to wash away. Finishing second in a prestigious competition is flattering but also painful, especially when the club has yet to lift the trophy.

Just ask Valencia and Stade de Reims, the only other teams to find themselves in the same unfortunate situation of reaching two finals without ever taking home the prize. The similarities don't stop there for the two unlucky Spanish clubs, however, as Valencia's conquerors were also Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. The same European giants that have prevented Atletico from becoming Champions of Europe. The likeness stops there nonetheless as Valencia, reeling from heart break, have yet to return to the esteemed fixture.

It's easy to take for granted, being a part of such an occasion. After all, Atletico have been quite successful in the last few years that it's almost become an expectation that they lift some sort of silverware throughout the season. Two Europa Leagues, a La Liga title, a Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and a Copa del Rey all won since 2010 is bound to bring about increased belief in their team.

Football's a funny game though, and if you told Valencia back in 2001 after their penalty shoot-out defeat to Bayern in the final, that they would never reach these heights again with the same squad, the majority would be despondent. To reach two finals and lose both, only to miss out on another chance at righting the wrongs of the past seems cruel and somewhat harsh. Yet here we are.

The final in 1974, as mentioned before, helped shape the history of the two teams that faced each other. Bayern, having scored in injury time of extra time to bring the game to a replay, were inspired by their victory and began the dynasty of the much-famed club.

Atleti, meanwhile, suffered more than they could have imagined that night in Brussels. A barren run of triumph followed the runners-up of that year, with only one league title in 20 years being brought to the Vicente Calderon in the wake of the defeat. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, but losing in their first European Cup final was nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering the bad luck that came with it. If anything, it had placed them amongst the very best of Europe during one of the club's more successful periods.

Forty years on from that defeat, Atletico found themselves in another Champions League final. Not much had changed in that time, however, as they conceded an injury-time equaliser before going on to lose 4-1 in extra time. The second defeat in as many finals, while four decades apart, served a painful reminder of how hard it can be to win when it matters the most. Unable to clear THAT corner in what arguably would have been the last chance of the game for Real, brought about questions of the bottle and mental strength of the players. It's a silly thing to ponder, considering this was the same group of players which had just gone to Barcelona on the final day of the season the week prior and won the league title with a gritty and inspirational performance. The doubt surrounding their ability to perform on the big stage was without reason, but as the result set it in another question arose. Will Atleti ever become Champions of Europe?

Almost every sport has that one organization who always seem to fail, whenever they find themselves on the cusp of victory. These teams also usually lose in a manner that looks like they've been cursed, as ludicrous as it sounds. In the NFL, there's the Buffalo Bills, who reached four consecutive Super Bowl's from 1990-1993 but found themselves on the losing end each time. In baseball, we've got the Chicago Cubs. A franchise supported by a major fan base, the Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908, in a losing streak that has brought about many conspiracy theories that the team are cursed. Just mention the name Steve Bartman to any Cubbies fan and they'll shudder.

A defeat on Saturday would lead to Atletico becoming the Cubs and Bills version of football. Having lost two finals in an eerily similar manner, they would historically find themselves as the worse team in the Champions League Final. No team has ever reached a third final without winning it at least once. Juventus and Barcelona both went close but found ultimate success at their third time of trying. For Atleti, defeat in the San Siro would place them with the tag of the sport's lovable losers, a symbol of their inability to reach the upper echelon of European football.

If Atletico can keep the core of Koke, Saul and Griezmann together, among others, for the next few years, there's no doubt they'll be a constant threat in Europe's premier competition. It's a talented young team that will only get better with age and experience. Despite the fact that this tournament hasn't exactly done any favours for this club since its inception, the triumphs over Bayern and Barcelona this year show that players and coaches alike know what it takes to emerge victorious in these big games. Should they get their tactics right and their performances perfected on Saturday, they'll find themselves as Champions of Europe. At long last.