Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
When Atletico Madrid stride out at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday they will have one objective; to upset their hosts’ march to the title.
Los Blancos have the momentum at the top of La Liga, leading the table by three clear points after winning the last three matches, while Barcelona have faltered, taking just four points from their three most recent games. And shock waves have gone through the Spanish football world as the latest La Liga 2020 have just installed Zinedine Zidane’s team as the favourites to lift the title after two seasons of Catalan dominance.
There’s a long way to go, with many a twist and turn to come, and we’ll be right there all the way with all the latest La Liga 2020 news and action as it happens. This weekend, with the Blaugrana at home to mid-table Levante on Sunday, Los Blancos need to keep their momentum in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a Madrid derby.
And that means not losing.
There is a ten-point gap between Real and fifth-placed Atleti, and with a battle for Champions League places heating up I suspect both teams would take a point, though maybe grudgingly in Los Blancos’ case.
Defences in charge
Both Real Madrid and Atletico’s campaigns have been built on a foundation of miserly defence, Los Blancos conceding 13 goals so far and Atleti shipping only one more. They are the two tightest defences in the league.
Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos at the heart of Real Madrid’s defence have been imperious, and both are capable of scoring goals.
For Los Rojiblancos, captain Jan Oblak is a colossus between the sticks as the last line of defence while, at centre back, Stefan Savic could prove to be a decent replacement for the departed Atleti legend Diego Godin
Benzema must avoid injury if Los Blancos are to stay top
While their defence has been doing the business, the challenge at the other end of the pitch has been spearheaded by Karim Benzema. The French hitman has scored 12 league goals, with no other player exceeding three, and he has made the most assists (five).
And he was one of four scorers in Wednesday night’s Copa del Rey win away to Real Zaragoza, with Lucas Vazquez, Raphael Varane and Vinicius Junior also on target in a 0-4 stroll.
The argument over Gareth Bale’s commitment rages on. Spanish journalist Antonio Romero has said Zidane will be sending a ‘terrible message’ to his squad if he gives the Welsh wide man a start in the derby. Fans are still furious that, in November, he posed with a flag saying: “Wales, golf, Madrid – in that order.”
Maybe Benzema needs to look for support elsewhere. Casemiro was the hero of the day when Real Madrid beat Sevilla recently, scoring both their goals in a 2-1 win
Felix in doubt
Goals have been hard to come by for Atletico Madrid at times this season, and they have been dealt a blow this week with the news that summer signing Joao Felix may be ruled out with a muscle strain. The 126m Euro signing felt a problem during last week’s 0-0 draw with Leganes and has missed training since. He has struggled to make the impact Diego Simeone had hoped for, with just two league goals so far. But his pace and creativity can always be a threat and Atleti fans know there is much more to come from their new striker.
Certainly, Simeone would rather have him in the squad, to support leading scorer Alvaro Morata, who has seven goals. And the Atleti boss is looking for re-enforcements, hoping to bring Edinson Cavani on loan, while also showing interest in Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette.
Los Blancos have had the upper hand in this derby, with 110 wins to only 56 for Atletico.
A 0-0 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano, back in September, was a top of the table clash, but this time the best Atleti can hope for is to close the gap to seven points.
It’s going to be tough. Los Blancos have won the last seven, in all competitions, and are unbeaten at home in 13 matches, while Atleti are winless in four.