Behind El Clasico, the Madrid derby is the fixture of the season as far as Spanish football is concerned.
There’s already been one this season, when Atletico Madrid comprehensively dispatched Real in the UEFA Super Cup, in what was new Los Blancos coach, Julen Lopetegui’s first game in charge.
That aptly describes Lopetegui’s most recent game too, after Real were tore apart at Sevilla in a worrying display from the visitors.
In between those two performances, Real were unbeaten and looked good value in each game they played.
Since Diego Simeone took over at Atleti, they’ve really got the monkey off of their back in terms of not being able to win against their near neighbours.
Between the turn of the millennium and April 2013, the Rojiblancos didn’t win a single derby. However, a Copa del Rey final win against Real in the Santiago Bernabeu just a month later changed the dynamic of this fixture.
Though they’ve famously lost two Champions League finals to their fiercest rivals since then, it’s important to note that Simeone has absolutely gained the upper hand in the league.
In the 10 La Liga fixtures since September 2013, Real have only managed to win one of them – and it was at the Vicente Calderon.
A draw is unlikely to suit either side, given than both want to put as much pressure on Barcelona as possible, but the quality of opponent before them will ensure that this will feel like a point gained.
Atleti head to the Bernabeu with no fear whatsoever, and Real will gleefully accept their challenge.
Los Blancos have only lost two Madrid derbies in a row once in a generation, and it will take an almost perfect performance from the visitors in the lion’s den for them to come close to replicating anything like the Super Cup result.
The likelihood of this being a much closer affair is high, and Simeone will set his stall out in much the same way as he has done in each Madrid derby that he has overseen whilst in charge of Atleti.
Two of the meanest defences in the league this season with three and four goals conceded respectively, evidences the strength of both sides in that area of the pitch. However, there will be chances in the game, and both front threes are more than capable of finding the net.
The intensity of a Madrid derby is rarely matched in the modern game, and despite the presence of some of the most technically gifted exponents there’s always room in these games for an enforcer or two.
Madridistas on both sides practically demand it. This is a match where everything has to be left out there on the pitch. Full concentration, full contact. No quarter asked or given.
There’s some certainty to both teams wanting to come charging out of the blocks to try and get the upper hand in the opening exchanges, but with two of the world’s best keepers in situ – Thibaut Courtois and Jan Oblak – the strikers are going to find a brick wall between them and the opposition goal.
Not a slow burner by any means, these games do sometimes take a little while to get going, purely because each cancels the other out in many areas.
Whomever goes behind first will be hammering down the door for the remainder of the match until that equaliser arrives.
Real have scored just twice this season in La Liga before the 39th minute.
A couple of later first-half goals aside, most of their strikes have come in the second-half. They have a new way of working under Lopetegui and part of that involves moving the ball around as much, and as quickly as possible.
It tires the opposition out, and then allows the strikers to nip in to the gaps that have been created to be decisive. It’s not really worked for them in the early part of each match but has done in the end.
They know that Atletico Madrid will never lay down their arms as long as Cholo is in charge, so, even with the home crowd’s whistles ringing in their ears, Real know that they need to be more patient than usual.
Up front, the attacking movement of the BBA trio has been a joy to watch, but in Diego Godin, Atleti do possess one of the world’s best centre-backs - and he’ll be making life as difficult as possible, as always.
It would be no surprise to see the clock ticking towards the hour mark before Real make their breakthrough and should Los Blancos. You can avail of this option at 12/1 with Bet365.
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