Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will renew their rivalries this weekend in a game that could have major repercussions in the La Liga title race.

Matchday 26 of the La Liga kicks off this weekend and reigning champions Real Madrid will be in action on Sunday afternoon when they make the short trip to the Wanda Metropolitano to lock horns with arch-rivals and current league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Atletico Madrid, having made a strong start to the campaign, had been able to open up a strong lead at the top. However, recent failings against the likes of Celta Vigo and Levante have allowed both Barcelona and Real Madrid to make up good ground on them, with Diego Simeone’s men boasting only a five-point lead over the second-placed Catalans.

Atleti did end a three-game winless run with a 2-0 victory over Villarreal last weekend but things will get tricky when their neighbours come visiting on Sunday. Zinedine Zidane’s men are unbeaten in their last five league outings, which has helped them reduce the gap to Atletico to five points.

However, Los Blancos did see their four-game winning run in the Spanish top-flight get halted on Monday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Real Sociedad at home. They will be hoping to return to winning ways this weekend and in the process move closer to the league leaders.

The first El Derbi Madrileno of the season had ended in a 2-0 win for Real courtesy of a Casemiro strike and an own goal by Jan Oblak. Ahead of their latest meeting this Sunday afternoon, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

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Atletico Madrid will be boosted by the return of Kieran Trippier, who is back after serving his suspension for an illegal betting charge. Thomas Lemar, who had to come off injured against Villarreal last time out is fit and available while Yannick Carrasco is also back from injury. However, Jose Maria Gimenez remains a major doubt for Atleti.

Diego Simeone has stuck by the 3-5-2 formation this season and is unlikely to change that up when Real Madrid come visiting. Jan Oblak is the undisputed starter in goal for the league leaders, with Stefan Savic, Felipe and Mario Hermoso forming the three-man backline in the absence of Gimenez.

The returning Trippier should come in at right wing-back while Carrasco slots in on the left, with the duo in charge of providing the width going forward. Atletico Madrid captain Koke will sit deep and look to break up play while the likes of Marcos Llorente and Saul Niguez provide the forward thrust and ball-progression from the centre.

Up front, in-form striker Luis Suarez is a certain starter for Los Rojiblancos. Angel Correa offers a lot with his work-rate and pressing but Joao Felix, who scored after coming on as a substitute against Villarreal, could get the nod against Real Madrid this weekend.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Savic, Felipe, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Saul, Carrasco; Felix, Suarez

Real Madrid

There is some good news for Real Madrid heading into the game as star striker Karim Benzema is fit again and is expected to play a part. However, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard still remain unavailable while Mariano Diaz has also joined them out on the treatment tabes with an injury.

Zinedine Zidane is said to be contemplating using a 4-4-2 formation on Sunday afternoon. However, the Frenchman is likely to stick with the 4-3-3 as it gives him the chance to play his trusted midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro, all of whom will have a crucial role to play in a match of this magnitude.

Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez have struck up a solid partnership at the heart of the Real Madrid defence and Zidane is unlikely to tinker with it while Lucas Vazquez, who impressed in the draw against Sociedad, should continue at right-back. Despite Marcelo’s availability, Ferland Mendy ought to continue on the left.

With Benzema fit again, he should walk right back into the starting XI in the centre-forward role, although he might not be capable of playing the entire ninety minutes. Vinicius Junior, who scored the equaliser for Real Madrid in the last game, is likely to be on the bench again, with Isco getting the nod. Rodrygo could come in for the struggling Marco Asensio on the right.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Isco

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid are undefeated in nine of their last ten matches against Atletico Madrid in all competitions.
  • Atletico Madrid have failed to win any of their last nine La Liga games against Real Madrid (D5 L4) – their longest run without a victory in a derby under Diego Simeone.
  • Real Madrid have not lost any of their three games at Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga (W1 D2).
  • Atletico Madrid have failed to score in their last three games against Real Madrid in La Liga.
  • Real Madrid have lost just one of their last 15 matches in La Liga, with that defeat coming against Levante back in January.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

The Frenchman’s absence has been glaringly felt by Real Madrid in recent games with the Merengues attack lacking any sort of focal point in the final third of the pitch. So, his return, ahead of the derby nonetheless, will be a major boost for Zinedine Zidane & co. as they look to close the gap to the top.

In 28 games this season, Benzema has scored 17 goals and set up 5 more. Apart from his goal-scoring ability, the veteran forward’s smart link-up play and intelligent movement makes him a huge asset to the team. For Real Madrid to stand a chance of coming out on top on Sunday, they will need Benzema to shake off any cobwebs from his time on the sidelines and hit the ground running.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid

Atletico Madrid have a five-point advantage at the top, but with their rivals closing in, they will be aware that they cannot settle for a draw and need to push for a victory. Real Madrid, on the other hand, need to reduce the five-point gap between themselves and their neighbours in order to stay in the hunt for the title.

Atletico Madrid will look to defend deep and hit Real Madrid on the break, but the Merengues, despite Sergio Ramos’ absence, have been solid at the back and will not be easy to break down. The return of Karim Benzema should provide them with a goal threat in attack, but the hosts’ defence, which has conceded just 16 league goals, will be hard to breach.

All things considered, it promises to be a closely-contested affair at Wanda Metropolitano with The Hard Tackle predicting a 1-1 draw, which will end up helping Barcelona in the title race, provided they defeat Osasuna on Saturday night.

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