The stakes will be sky high as Atletico Madrid take on Real Madrid at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Saturday in the highly anticipated El Derbi.
It will be a significant week in the La Liga title race as league leaders Atletico Madrid travel to Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano to face cross-town rivals and defending champions of Spain, Real Madrid in the famed El Derbi.
This game serves as an ideal opportunity for Zinedine Zidane’s men to make up some ground in the league table following yet another inconsistent start to the campaign. Although Los Blancos are way ahead of arch-rivals Barcelona, who are dawdling in mid-table, they are trailing their cross-town rivals by six points.
A win at home this weekend should close that gap to just three points, though Atleti do have a game in hand. It is also fair to point out that Diego Simeone’s men have an awful record against Real Madrid, having failed to win any of their last eight games against them in the competition.
Both Real and Atletico, however, are coming on the back of crunch UEFA Champions League so they were forced to field a strong team against Borussia Monchengladbach and RB Salzburg respectively. So, fatigue could be an issue in this fixture and the visitors, in particular, will presumably be eying for a draw.
While a point could allow second-placed Real Sociedad to dethrone Simeone’s side at the top of the table, Atleti have a two-game advantage over the Basque club. Real Madrid, on the other hand, will be expecting nothing less than all three points and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides in this highly anticipated Madrid derby this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Zidane will continue to miss out on the services of star player Eden Hazard as well as Luka Jovic and Martin Odegaard. He will, however, be boosted by the return of Sergio Ramos, who made a comeback this midweek and should start alongside Raphael Varane, at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.
There could be a key change at right-back as well, with Dani Carvajal, who was on the bench against Gladbach in midweek, replacing Lucas Vazquez. Ferland Mendy should, however, continue on the opposite flank while Thibaut Courtois is the undisputed number one choice in between the sticks.
Zidane could face a selection dilemma in central midfield where the ageing Luka Modric could once again be forced to start alongside Casemiro and Toni Kroos. Federico Valverde has recently returned to full training but it remains a doubt whether he will be fit to feature on Saturday, even though the Uruguayan international has been included in the squad.
Either way, the Real Madrid players could be pushed to their limits especially given the fact that they are coming on the back of two back-to-back tough games against Sevilla and Gladbach.
Fortunately for Zidane, the Frenchman has much more options in the final third, where Rodrygo could be replaced by Marco Asensio. The Spaniard will form the three-man Real Madrid attack alongside Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, though they also have the option of deploying Vazquez in a more attacking role with Carvajal now back from injury.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vinicius, Benzema, Asensio
Simeone could once again deploy a pendulating back-four in this contest, with Mario Hermoso once again playing a key role in their tactics. The 25-year-old should start as the left-back but could slot into the back three during the defensive phases, providing support to Felipe and Stefan Savic. Kieran Trippier, who is linked with Manchester United, should start at right-back.
🎙 The boss previews the Madrid Derby 👇
❝It's a beautiful game with fantastic footballers.❞
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) December 11, 2020
Meanwhile, the left-sided midfielder Yannick Ferreiro Carrasco should also drop deeper and operate as an auxiliary wing-back, almost creating a defensive back-five. It should ultimately provide better balance against the three Real Madrid attackers, giving Los Colcheneros the much-needed numerical advantage.
During the possession-phases, however, Carrasco should act in his natural attacking role, working alongside the likes of Saul Niguez, Koke and Marco Llorente in the second line of Atletico Madrid’s classic 4-4-2. It appears Llorente is the favourite to start as the right-sided midfielder with Koke working centrally but it could be the opposite way around as well.
Nevertheless, they are all expected to operate narrowly, helping their team remain compact against a Real Madrid side who are expected to dominate the possession. So the objective will be to play on the counter and effectively expose the rather vulnerable backline.
That is where the offensive combination of Joao Felix and Luis Suarez could come in handy, although Diego Simeone also has the option of deploying Angel Correa.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Felipe, Hermoso; Llorente, Koke, Saul, Carrasco; Felix, Suarez
- Atletico Madrid have failed to win their last eight La Liga games against Real Madrid after winning four of the previous six against them in the competition.
- Real Madrid have only won one of their last seven home La Liga games against Atletico Madrid but are unbeaten in the last four against them.
- Real Madrid have only lost one of their last 26 Madrilean games in La Liga, 0-1 at Estadio de Vallecas vs Rayo Vallecano in April 2019.
- Atletico Madrid have only lost one of their last eight derbies in the competition, keeping a clean sheet in seven of them.
- Real Madrid have lost two of their last three home La Liga games after avoiding defeat in their previous 20 in the competition.
Player to Watch
🔜 @LuisSuarez9 ✖️ 𝗠𝗮𝗱𝗿𝗶𝗱 𝗗𝗲𝗿𝗯𝘆
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) December 11, 2020
One player who will be keen and relishing the opportunity of playing against Real Madrid this weekend is former Barcelona frontman, Luis Suarez.
The ageing striker, following a strong start to his Atletico Madrid career, has seen his progress stifled by injuries. However, Real Madrid have been one of his favourite opponents of his illustrious career, with the forward notably scoring 11 goals in 16 matches against Los Merengues.
The Uruguayan could play a key role this time out as well, as he has the experience as well as the scoring prowess that could be useful in a game where Atletico Madrid aren’t expected to get too many chances. It will also be interesting to see how the ageing duo of Suarez and Ramos tussle with each other this weekend.
Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid have been far from consistent in any competition this season and with Hazard missing, they are unlikely to dominate an Atletico side who are flying high at the top of the table and have found their mojo in recent months. We are thus expecting these two teams to share the spoils this weekend.