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Can Atlético make it third time lucky in Milan?

Atlético can become the fourth side to win the European Cup for the first time in the UEFA Champions League era, but they will make a less positive mark if they fail, as UEFA.com discovers.

Atlético players downcast after the 2014 final
Atlético players downcast after the 2014 final ©AFP/Getty Images

On paper, the odds look to be firmly against Atlético becoming European champions for the first time in Milan; they are up against a Real Madrid side who have won the competition ten times, including their last four finals. Moreover, the clubs met in the 2014 decider and look what happened there.

Runners-up in 1974 and 2014, Atlético's worst-case scenario is setting a new mark; if beaten on Saturday, they will become the first team to lose three European Cup finals without having won once at some stage – a record they currently share with Reims (1956 and 1959) and Valencia (2000 and 2001). They would also edge closer to Benfica's unenviable record of five straight European Cup final defeats since the Eagles' Béla Guttmann-powered successes of 1961 and 1962.

Atlético lost to Bayern in the 1974 final
Atlético lost to Bayern in the 1974 final©Getty Images

Winning the UEFA Champions League for the first time is no easy task, however. Since Marseille triumphed in the first edition, only two more sides have lifted the European Cup for the first time: Dortmund (in their first final) in 1997 and Chelsea (losing finalists in 2008) in 2011.

However, Diego Simeone's Atlético are not the sort of team to be discouraged by statistics, and their two final reversals – albeit 40 years apart – suggest their wait may soon be over. The 60 editions of the European Cup have been won by 22 different clubs, and so far not one has played three finals without winning at least once, the examples of Juventus and Barcelona providing encouragement for the Rojiblancos.

Madrid crowned first winners
Madrid crowned first winners

First-time winners at the first attempt
1955/56: Real Madrid
1960/61: Benfica
1945/65: Internazionale
1966/67: Celtic
1967/68: Man United
1969/70: Feyenoord
1973/74: Bayern
1976/77: Liverpool
1978/79: Forest
1981/82: Villa
1985/86: Steaua
1986/87: Porto
1987/88: PSV
1990/91: Crvena zvezda
1996/97: Dortmund

Altafini wins it for Milan
Altafini wins it for Milan

First-time winners at the second attempt
1962/63: AC Milan (losers in 1958)
1970/71: Ajax (losers in 1969)
1982/83: Hamburg (losers in 1980)
1992/93: Marseille (losers in 1991)
2011/12: Chelsea (losers in 2008)

First-time winners at the third attempt
1984/85: Juventus (losers in 1973 and 1983)
1991/92: Barcelona (losers in 1961 and 1986)