MADRID (AP) — The newly crowned champions of the Spanish league should not expect any special treatment come Sunday at their most hated rivals.
Atlético Madrid says that it won’t provide an honor guard, whereby one team’s players like up to applaud their opponents as they enter the field before kickoff, for league champions Real Madrid for Sunday’s derby at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
“We congratulate Real Madrid, its players and its coaching staff because they have done an incredible job,” Atlético coach Diego Simeone said Saturday in the buildup to the game.
“I respect Madrid for becoming the champion, but we have much more respect for our fans, those who are always with us.”
Madrid wrapped up its 35th Spanish league title last weekend with four rounds remaining after beating Espanyol 4-0.
The honor guard is not always practiced in Spanish soccer. But often the first opponent to face a newly crowned champion after winning a title will pay their respects in this fashion. It is a custom that is not practiced in all leagues. Both Simeone, who is Argentine, and Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who is Italian, both said it is not done in their countries.
The always relaxed-looking Ancelotti tried to downplay Atlético’s decision, which is sure to rub many Madrid fans the wrong way.
“Everyone should do what they feel is best and we have to respect that. We have the utmost respect for Atlético, their players and their coach,” Ancelotti said. “They’re our neighbors, friends. If they do it, fine, and if they don’t, that’s OK too. We’ll respect whatever they choose to do.”
With nothing left in the league to play for, Madrid is using the match to start its preparations for the Champions League final against Liverpool on May 28.
Atlético, however, still needs to lock up a top-four finish to ensure a Champions League spot next season.
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The Associated Press