Champions League finals have only meant cruel heartbreak for Atletico Madrid

They first reached a decider in the Europa League era

Bayern Munich, Gerd Muller, Atletico Madrid

German soccer club FC Bayern Munichs Gerd Mueller, right, heads a goal against Atletico Madrid although challenged by Heraldo Becerra, left, during replay for the European Cup Champions Cup in Brussels, Belgium on May 17, 1974. Bayern Munich won 4-0. (AP Photo)

Third time lucky? Atletico Madrid will certainly hope so on Saturday night.

It is two years since Diego Simeone's side were minutes away from Champions League glory, only for a 93rd minute header from Real Madrid Sergio Ramos to force extra-time in Lisbon.

Resilient Atletico's resolve broke in extra-time and they eventually lost 4-1 and were left to watch their city rivals lift club football's grandest prize. For those who remember the game vividly, the scale of defeat was wholly undeserved and what made it worse was the fact that their conquerors were their wealthy and far more successful neighbours who denied them.

 

Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid: 2014 UEFA Champions League final highlights

On Saturday, Atletico will have a chance to get revenge on Real in Milan when the two sides meet again in a Champions League final.

They already exacted revenge against Bayern Munich in this season's semi-finals - the club which defeated them in the 1974 European Cup final. 

Over a span of decidedly up and down decades, Atletico have managed to pick 10 La Liga trophies, 10 Spanish Cups, a European Cup Winners Cup and two Europa Leagues.

But how different could their history and trajectory have been if they had defeat Bayern in '74 and become the second Spanish team to hold a European Cup?

The '70s were already a great era for the club as they amassed three league titles and two Copas between 1970 and the end of the decade.

But in '74, they so nearly added Europe's greatest club trophy to that haul. After beating Celtic in the semi-finals, they were tasked with defeating a Bayern side featuring international legends like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Paul Breitner and Sepp Maier. 

And like two years ago, they almost got over the line. Goalless after 90 minutes in Brussels' Heysel Stadium on May 15th 1974, Atletico struck first in extra-time through future Spain manager Luis Aragones with just six minutes to go to the final whistle with a curling free-kick.

Unfortunately, they couldn't hang on for as the 120th minute of 120 minutes attest.

Bayern and Germany defender Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck strode forward from the back and fired a speculative shot from long-range.

Atletico's goalkeeper Miguel Reina, father of ex-Liverpool shot-stopper Pepe, was unable to stop the ball finding the net and an urban legend even claimed that he was giving his gloves to a reporter behind the goal so sure of victory that he was. Reina has always denied that.

But the end result was that a replay was forced which would take place just two days later. Atletico turned up in physical but not in any other way as a double each from Uli Hoeness and Muller gave Bayern a 4-0 win and a first ever European Cup. Atletico are still waiting for theirs. But that wait could be over on Saturday.