Derbies are notorious for their unpredictability and the related media coverage often features some form of the cliché "form goes out the window."Atlético Madrid fans will certainly hope that that is case in this year’s first Madrid derby, given some iffy results in past weeks.
Needless to say, the last time these two sides met will not bring back particularly fond memories from the red side of Madrid, so we won’t dwell on it. However, over the last three seasons, Atlético are undefeated in LaLiga against the city rivals. Last year, in the two league meetings between the primary Madrid clubs, the games finished 1-1 and 1-0 to Atleti.
Interestingly, the game Atlético won was a game in which they were outshot, registered fewer key passes and passed much less effectively than their opponents, while in the game they drew they were superior in all these statistical areas.
Real Madrid are in the midst of an injury crisis, the most recent victim being Toni Kroos, a player Zinedine Zidane has relied on more than any other (954 minutes so far this season). Casemiro is a doubt for this game, but captain/eternal nemesis Sergio Ramos will be back from an injury of his own.
Without both Kroos and Casemiro, Real are light in midfield, with no real defensive options, which could provide an avenue for Atlético to exploit. Equally concerning for Real is the injury to Alvaro Morata, who has been a reliable goal scorer (eight in all comps) so far this season, and he went and tore his hamstring while playing for Spain.
Injury news looks far better for Atlético, as according to Marca, it appears that both Nicolas Gaitan and Antoine Griezmann will be available for the derby. Lucas Hernandez and Thomas Partey were also reported to be making their way back from injury, providing much-needed squad depth.
What is a bit concerning for Atleti is Simeone's lack of rotation this year. Over the last six games in all competitions, the only change in defense was Sime Vrsaljko playing once instead of Juanfran. That was it.
Having a solid team is important, but given the war on three fronts Simeone's men are currently fighting, some rotation is needed to keep their key players fresh. Given the lack of rotation though, the starting XI should be familiar. We’re likely to see Oblak, Juanfran, Godin, Savic, Filipe Luis, Gabi, Koke, Carrasco, Saul or Correa, with Griezmann and Gameiro up front.
This match is going to be very hotly contested, with both clubs wanting/needing a win to advance their title challenge. For Atlético, the win is arguably more important due to recent slippage in the table. Atleti are currently undefeated at the Vicente Calderon this season and have only drawn once at home, so this derby provides a good chance for revenge, as well as an opportunity to apply important pressure on the teams at the top of the league.
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