Simeone has set out his challenge: he has made it clear that he's not the motivating factor for the side, it's his players, not him, who have the answers. Before he spoke in his press conference ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Calderón, Real Madrid sent their own message, in the words of their captain, Sergio Ramos. Ramos embodies bold Real Madrid, he is the 93rd minute in Lisbon, he is Pirri plus Camacho plus Santillana, he is the captain through good times and bad. Bringing him out for the press conference was Real Madrid showing off their trump card. "This is what we've got," they shouted. This is Camacho plus Pirri plus Santillana, plus the 93rd minute, plus what the imagination of the supporters and opponents can add.
Simeone and Ramos: the game's definition
Simeone and Sergio Ramos define this confrontation. They are two great motivators. Simeone has endowed Atlético with an anti-authoritarian nature, a unit with a purpose, capable of turning rebellion into concrete conquests. Sergio Ramos gives Madrid that sense of heroism that in the most trying times produces the best to prove that they are exactly that: the best. That there is no surrender, that when the going gets tough there's still a trick up the sleeve to find the required goal. Last minute goals like the ones they've scored several of recently, many of them famously by Sergio Ramos. So it makes sense that Real Madrid brought him out for the press conference on the day before the game.
Belief that nothing is impossible
It's a difficult game for Madrid, despite the 3-0 lead. In more than 50 years, I have never seen Atlético and their fans so fired up before a game. This clash brings back the memories of two finals lost 'in extremis', plus Chicharito's goal, plus the realisation that it's the last ever derby in their old sanctuary, plus the signing of Theo... This is a now or never moment, especially for Simeone, Atleti's Spartacus. This is the fourth time in succession that he has come up against Real Madrid in his quest for European glory. This time it's a tough ask, but he's not giving up. He's backed by the conviction of the fans who have decided to believe. Last night they were in Monte Real, with their flares, sure that nothing is impossible.