On a golden weekend that promises top quality football after a drab international break, few games promise to be as entertaining or exhilarating as the Madrid Derby. Being the last match between these two at the Vicente Calderon, there is surely added incentive for both teams to show up each other in the super grudge match.
After breaking a 13 year winless run in the league against their more illustrious opponents, Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in 6 league matches against Real Madrid. This has spanned over 3 years. They’ll still be smarting from their 2nd consecutive Champions League final loss against Los Blancos though. Sitting 6 points behind them, Diego Simeone’s men will certainly not be lacking motivation.
Zinedine Zidane goes into his first Madrid Derby at the Calderon as Madrid coach without the services of Toni Kroos, Alvaro Morata, Casemiro and Pepe, but will be happy to welcome a fit again Sergio Ramos as well as Luka Modric.
On the Los Colchoneros front, stand out player Antoinne Griezmann was an injury scare after bruising his foot while on International duty with France. He has been given the all clear to play on Saturday.
Griezmann vs Cristiano
As with the Champions league final as well as this summer’s European Championships, the battle of the No.7s will likely take centre stage. The outcome of the game could very well lie in the boot (or head) of one of the 2 Ballon D’or nominees.
Atletico will most likely resort to a rigid 4-4-2 that has become part of their DNA. They’ll depend on their solid defense and blistering pace on the counter. Players like Griezmann, Yannick Carrasco and Kevin Gameiro will try to get in behind the Real defense with darting runs. Even more crucially, the hard-working fullbacks Filipe Luis and Juanfran will be kept busy.
Zidane would be crazy to attempt a 4-4-2 again in what would be akin to tactical suicide. With Morata out injured, there would also be no justification for such a setup. Casemiro and Toni Kroos are out through injury thus Luka Modric will be deployed in a deeper role than usual. Expect to see Mateo Kovacic and either Isco or James Rodriguez for company.
The BBC trio upfront will require special attention from a normally strong Atleti defense.
Both teams have shown indifferent form over the course of the season, but Real managed to snap their 4 game winless run and sit 1st on the log with a 2 point lead over Barcelona. Atletico is in 4th, 6 points behind their city rivals following a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad at the Anoeta before the international break.
Although this game may have little bearing on where the La Liga title will go, there is more than enough motivation for the players to go out and give their all. The watching fans will be thirsty for a feisty battle in this derby. May the best Madrid team win.
Article written by Ayoola Kelechi (@ayoola_kelechi)