There are few fixtures in soccer that divide a city while drawing the attention of the watching world in quite the same was as the Madrid derby, contested by the Spanish capital’s two dominant forces: Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid.
And the Madrid derby is coming to the International Champions Cup this summer, with Real and Atlético set to go head to head at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, on July 26 – the first time El Derbi Madrileño will be contested outside of Europe.
Friday, July 26: Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid — East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium – Buy Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Tickets
It’s a fixture that is not only enriched by its long and storied history, but also by the fact the two clubs have been among the most powerful in Europe, let alone Spain, over the last decade.
Formed in 1902, Real Madrid – then known simply as Madrid Football Club, before King Alfonso XIII bestowed the Real title upon them in 1920 – were one of the early powers of Spanish football, winning the Copa del Rey – the only national tournament in Spain at the time – four times in a row from 1905 to 1908.
Real were also founder members of LaLiga in 1928, and won their first league title three years later.
Although rival Madrid clubs existed, Real’s proclivity for either signing the best players from those around them or absorbing local teams wholesale inspired the formation of Atlético in 1903 – then known as Athletic de Madrid, a satellite of Athletic Bilbao, the Basque side who were Madrid’s biggest rivals for silverware and later the first LaLiga champions.
Since the earliest days of the cross-city rivalry, it has often been framed as a contest between the haves and the have-nots.
Real Madrid, due to their early success, financial power and royal connection – the word “real” means royal in Spanish – have been viewed as representing the wealthy. Atlético, whose first stadium, the Ronda de Vallecas, was situated in a working-class part of Madrid, have long been positioned as the fiscal and sporting underdogs.
This characterisation is less applicable in the modern era with both sides of the rivalry represented by supporters from all walks of life, and both teams among the game’s elite.
Atleti were invited to form part of LaLiga during its inaugural season, but Los Colchoneros didn’t enjoy the early success of their neighbours; Atlético were relegated the year before Real claimed their first title, going unbeaten in 1931/32.
But there have been periods in which Atleti have been the city’s dominant team. They won four LaLiga titles, for example, during the 21 years between Real’s second and third championships in 1933 and ‘54. And, during the 11 seasons between 1969/70 and 1979/80, the two sides dominated the Spanish football landscape, with LaLiga’s trophy remaining in Madrid for eight of those campaigns (three for Atleti, five for Real).
Real Madrid are more synonymous with continental success than Atlético, though, having been crowned champions of Europe a record 13 times, including in each of the first five seasons after the European Cup was founded as well as claiming four of the last five UEFA Champions League titles.
Atleti have won the UEFA Europa League three times and are the current holders. But they have never won the Champions League, twice defeated by Real in the three finals they have reached.
The first time Real and Atlético met in the final of the Champions League, in 2013, marked the first time two clubs from the same city had ever contested European football’s grandest prize. On that occasion, Real won 4-1 but needed extra time to defeat Diego Simeone’s men, with the game tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
They met again in the final two years later, with Real victorious once more, this time by an even slighter margin, winning on penalties.
Historically, Real and Atleti have faced off 273 times in total, across domestic Spanish competitions as well as meetings in Europe. Real have been victorious 139 times to Atlético’s 69, and Los Blancos have outscored their rivals by a total of 468 goals to 348.
The most recent Madrid derby, a LaLiga fixture at Atleti’s Wanda Metropolitano, saw Real claim a 3-1 victory, despite being without Cristiano Ronaldo, the fixture’s all-time leading scorer with 22 goals, who joined Juventus last summer.
Atlético coach Simeone is just one derby victory away from equalling the great Luis Aragonés as Atleti’s most successful boss in the fixture with ten wins.
Despite the historical advantage resting in Real’s favour, Simeone’s excellent work throughout his eight years in charge has seen the Madrid derby become more competitive than ever.
Both sides are among the very best Europe has to offer and meetings between the two are often tense, closely fought and always of the highest quality. This summer’s historic International Champions Cup clash in East Rutherford will be no different.