Forty years after being agonisingly denied victory in their only previous European Cup final, Club Atlético de Madrid, inspired by the goals of Diego Costa, have reached another.
Article top media content
The name Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck might not mean a huge deal to those not connected with FC Bayern München and Club Atlético de Madrid. With the Spanish team leading 1-0 going into the last minute of extra time in the 1974 European Cup final, a shot from some distance by the defender bounced and bobbled its way into the nightmares of Los Rojiblancos, many of whom still squirm at the thought of how close their side came to winning the competition. Bayern rallied to win the replay 4-0.
Now, 40 years on, the moniker of El Pupas – the jinxed ones – that had followed the team around ever since has been left behind as Diego Simeone's squad stride proudly towards another continental final as a European force to be reckoned with.
Story of the season
A nervous air pervaded prior to this season's UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw. Officials from the teams widely regarded as the tournament's elite were keen to avoid a side that had confidently sailed through to the knockout stage as Group G winners with two games to spare.
Along with FC Zenit and FK Austria Wien, FC Porto would join three other former tournament winners Atlético would count among their victims during an unbeaten campaign to date. AC Milan were ousted 5-1 on aggregate before FC Barcelona fell to Koke's early strike in the quarter-final second leg. After 0-0 draw at home, Atlético went behind to old boy Fernando Torres's goal at Chelsea FC, but responded with three goals to advance.
P1 W0 L1
Last, 1973/74: FC Bayern München 1-1 Atlético (Heysel, Brussels)
Replay: Atlético 0-4 FC Bayern München (Heysel, Brussels)
Record against final opponents
Los Colchoneros finished the 1957/58 campaign three points behind Liga winners Real Madrid CF but were granted a place in the following season's European Cup alongside the holders. Their paths crossed at the semi-final stage in what is the teams' only previous meeting in European competition. Madrid prevailed 2-1 in the first leg but with Atlético triumphing 1-0 in the second, a play-off, which Los Blancos edged 2-1 in Zaragoza, was required.
Having missed Atlético's Group G openers after serving a two-game ban, striker Diego Costa returned to mark his UEFA Champions League debut with two goals in a 3-0 win at Austria Wien.
"It is unbelievable for us to play this final. On Sunday we have another 'final' against Levante and maybe we have a possibility to win the league title as well. This season is a dream."
Midfielder Tiago following the 3-1 semi-final second-leg victory against Chelsea.
The stubborn determination of Diego Costa, a scorer of eight goals in as many UEFA Champions League outings this term, epitomises that of the team in which he plays. "I don't like losing, so I give my life in every game," he told UEFA.com earlier this season.
Having marshalled his team from a defensive midfield position throughout the campaign, Gabi was disappointed to miss out on the semi-final second leg against Chelsea through suspension. The 30-year-old Atlético youth-team product should be back to captain his side in the final, however. "This is the best time of our lives," Gabi said ahead of the 1-0 triumph over Barcelona. "We want to enjoy the moment, show passion as always and spread it to the people that support us."