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Honour guard snub by Atletico for Real

The newly crowned champions of the Spanish league should not expect any special treatment at their most hated rivals on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid say they won’t provide an honour guard – where one team’s players line up to applaud their opponents before kickoff – for league champions Real Madrid in the derby at their Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

“We congratulate Real Madrid, their players and coaching staff because they have done an incredible job,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said on Saturday.

“I respect Madrid for becoming the champions, but we have much more respect for our fans, those who are always with us.”

Real Madrid wrapped up their 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 honour guard before their match in Seville to congratulate them on their Copa del Rey title.

The honour guard is not always used in Spanish soccer. But often the first opponents to face newly crowned champions will pay their 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 Atletico’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 Atletico, their players and their coach,” Ancelotti said.

“They’re our neighbours, friends. If they do it, fine, and if they don’t, that’s okay too. We’ll respect whatever they choose to do.”

With nothing left in the league to play for, Real Madrid are using the match to start their preparations for the Champions League final against Liverpool on May 28.

Atletico, however, still need to lock up a top-four finish to ensure a Champions League spot next season.

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