In the past, the Madrid derby meant little more than bragging rights to Real, who were often more focused on competing on other fronts.
But for Atletico, it was always a defining moment of the season. A chance to measure themselves and their progress against their illustrious neighbours.
And now, it offers a chance to avenge their Copa del Rey defeat, but more importantly, move level on points with Real in the league.
The notion of Los Colchoneros competing with Real seemed a silly one but a few years ago. yet despite the departures of key players over the years, they have put themselves firmly in contention for the La Liga crown this season.
The possibility of usurping their rivals is a real one. And doing the double over their wealthy opponents would not only put them back in a strong league position, but put out a statement of their intent to become no.1 in Madrid.
Having beat Los Blacos at the Bernabeu in September, Atletico will feel even more confident of a home scalp.
No doubt however that Diego Simeone and his men will have watched the Champions League in slight fear as Real ripped apart Schalke with consummate ease, and they will have paid particular attention to Real's attacking trio of Benzema, Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo - aka BBC.
With two goals each and over 70 between them this season, there's no doubt they will pose a threat to Atletico's back line. But after a travelling to and from Germany, Real will be no where near as fresh as their arch rivals.
Expect a high energy game from Atletico, as they will try to outrun the tired legs of Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric in midfield.
Victory will give Atletico their first league double over Los Meringues since 1951. But less important than the past is the potential success they can enjoy in the future. First was the Copa del Rey final last year. Will this be the next big step for Atletico?
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