MADRID (AP) — The newly crowned champion of the Spanish league should not expect any special treatment at its most hated rival on Sunday.
Atlético Madrid says it won’t provide an honor guard, whereby one team’s players line up to applaud their opponents as they enter the field before kickoff, for league champion Real Madrid for Sunday’s derby at 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 on Saturday. “I respect Madrid for becoming the champion, but we have much more respect for our fans, those who are always with us.”
Real Madrid wrapped up its 35th Spanish league title last weekend with four rounds remaining after beating Espanyol 4-0.
On Saturday, Barcelona’s players gave Real Betis’ lineup an honor guard before their match in Seville to congratulate them on their Copa del Rey title.
The honor guard is not always practiced in Spanish soccer. But often the first opponent to face a newly crowned champion will pay its respects in this fashion. Neither is it a custom in all leagues. Both Simeone, who is Argentine, and Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who is Italian, said it was not done in their countries.
The always relaxed-looking Ancelotti tried to downplay Atlético’s decision, which is sure to rub many Real 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, Real 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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