The Madrid derby is upon us, with Atletico Madrid set to host Real Madrid, who can leapfrog their local rivals with three points on Saturday.
La Liga is finally coming to life, with the top teams starting to string together a bit of form heading into the final stretch of the 2018-19 campaign. Real Madrid have steadied themselves under Santiago Solari and find themselves third in the La Liga table, eight points behind leaders Barcelona and two behind their Saturday opponents Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone has had to deal with a very slow start to the season from many of his individual superstars. But, Los Rojiblancos have still managed to be consistent and are only six points behind Barcelona in the title race. They recently slipped up against Real Betis, who notched up a clean 1-0 win over Atletico.
It is seemingly a three-horse race for La Liga at the moment, although Barcelona have a fair six point-lead over Atletico Madrid. The lead however, could stretch and Diego Simeone’s might find themselves being pushed to third after Saturday, should Real Madrid be able to beat them at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Their last league meeting ended in a 0-0 draw and both teams will hope for a better attacking performance on Saturday. We now take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
The 1-0 defeat to Real Betis will still sting Diego Simeone. But, there are unlikely to be many changes from the manager from the lineup that featured in the loss. Talking about injuries, Stefan Savic is still sidelined while Diego Costa and Koke are doubtful for the match.
In defence, the back four should see a bit of change, with Lucas Hernandez being pushed out wide to make room for the experienced Diego Godin to partner Jose Gimenez in central defence. Santiago Arias will likely guard the right side.
Rodrigo and Thomas Partey have struck a nice partnership in central midfield and should continue the same against Real Madrid. Thomas Lemar had an off day against Real Betis and could lose his place to Saul Niguez on the left, with Angel Correa on the right.
With Diego Costa doubtful, Alvaro Morata is set to be handed another start alongside club mega-star Antoine Griezmann, who will be keen to continue scoring to prove the Real Betis game was just a one-off.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Arias, Gimenez, Godin, Hernandez; Correa, Partey, Rodrigo, Saul; Griezmann, Morata
Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane will both be available after serving their respective suspensions in what will be a huge boost to Santiago Solari ahead of the Madrid derby. Isco remains the only player on the sidelines.
Raphael Varane will likely slot straight into the starting eleven alongside Sergio Ramos. Likewise for Dani Carvajal, who should assume his duties on the right. Marcelo has not really found his footing under Solari, especially after his return from the injury and could lose his place to Sergio Reguilon, who has shown all the positive tendencies of becoming a regular for Real Madrid.
Casemiro should return to form the base of the three-man midfield, which should consist of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
The attacking lineup though, is a bit more complex. Gareth Bale was lacklustre coming off the bench against Barcelona in Copa del Rey and could find himself missing from the starting eleven against Atletico Madrid. Lucas Vazquez should continue on the right, with the bright spark Vinicius Jr. on the left.
Karim Benzema has been brilliant in recent games for Real Madrid and should start upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Reguilon; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
1. Atletico Madrid have drawn their last four matches against Real Madrid in all competitions.
2. Atletico Madrid have the most frugal defence in the league, conceding just 14 goals in 22 league games so far.
3. Atletico Madrid are yet to lose a La Liga game at Wanda Metropolitano this season (9W,2D).
4. Atletico Madrid have conceded in only three of the 11 home league games this season.
5. Antoine Griezmann has 8 goals and 2 assists in his last 10 appearances for Atletico Madrid in all competitions.
Player to Watch
Not that the youngster hasn’t already passed some stern tests at left-back for Real Madrid, but to start in a Madrid derby is a different challenge altogether. Santiago Solari has put faith in the young prospect and he has shown signs of becoming a household name in defence for Real Madrid.
Reguilon will be up against a tricky customer in Angel Correa, who will look to cut inside and leave the space for Santiago Arias to exploit. The youngster will have to be wary of it and Atletico Madrid’s fortunes might just depend on whether they are able to find any success against the young defender.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid
A draw will hinder both sides’ chances of catching up to Barcelona. But, that is exactly what we expect to happen at the Wanda Metropolitano. The two sides have had mixed fortunes. But, Diego Simeone’s side have been the more consistent one and we cannot see them registering their first home defeat of the 2018-19 La Liga season on Saturday.
As for Real Madrid, the 1-1 draw against Barcelona could be chalked down as an advantage. Solari’s tactics and confidence in youngsters or fringe stars is really giving Real Madrid a new lease of life. A scoring draw is what we are going for.