Atlético Madrid will look to snap an eight-game winless run in league derbies against Real Madrid on Saturday — and perhaps go nine points clear of Los Blancos atop LaLiga.
“It is an exciting match,” Koke said in an interview Friday. “It is a day that you always mark on the calendar and you approach it with enthusiasm, with the idea of doing things well. It is very special, and we hope things go well so we can win it.”
Atlético’s last meeting with Real Madrid was a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu on Feb. 1 — less than a month after Los Colchoneros lost to their city rivals on penalties in the Spanish Super Cup. Since then, Madrid have swapped stadia (the Santiago Bernabéu is undergoing renovations) and won a league title. Atleti have not lost a league match since that defeat and are unbeaten in 26 overall in LaLiga.
“Last season helped us to grow, with a lot of players who today are better versions of themselves,” Diego Simeone said in his pre-match press conference. “That has made (the team) grow, especially since the competition stopped due to the virus.”
Due to the team’s transformation since the summer, Simeone’s counterpart Zinedine Zidane believes Los Rojiblancos — with eight wins from 10 and two games in hand — are favorites for the title.
“That’s what they’re showing. They’re doing things well and competing,” the Frenchman said. “They’ve always been competitive and they’re first right now.”
“The season is long; there are good moments and less-good ones,” Jan Oblak told Marca. “We must do our best, secure as many points as possible to be on top. There is a lot of league left.”
That said, a win Saturday at the Alfredo Di Stefano would make it difficult to deny the strength of Atlético’s position in LaLiga. Simeone is hoping his new attacking star — also an old Real Madrid nemesis — can help to deliver his side a victory in this fixture for the first time since 2016.
“Luis Suárez is very important to us,” Cholo said. “He has the goal gene inside him, and it is a very important game for him and for the team. Hopefully (in) the time he is on the field, he can give his best for the team.”
Suárez has 11 goals and five assists in 16 career meetings with Madrid, including seven goals in his last seven appearances for Barcelona. He will start next to João Félix, and that duo should be joined by the roaming Marcos Llorente, the ex-Madridista who has become one of LaLiga’s most thrilling attackers.
“I was very clear that I had to leave Madrid,” Llorente said in his own interview Friday. “When Atleti’s offer arrived I did not hesitate. Now, things are going very well for me. I am very happy. When a player has minutes, he grows, he becomes a better player, and that’s what is happening to me.”
Zidane can still count on Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior for goals, plus in-form Luka Modrić and longtime enemy Sergio Ramos to control play and organize the team. Simeone’s Atleti did not score across three games with Madrid in 2019/20, but the coach has changed tactics since then and doesn’t doubt that we’re getting set for a partidazo.
“Their most veteran players continue to compete with their young players (fighting for minutes) and that is to be admired, regardless of their being a historical rival.
“We want to take the game where we can hurt them,” Simeone concluded. “It will be a very nice game.”
Date Dec. 12, 2020
Location Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog Managing Madrid
Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), ESPN2 Sur (Argentina), beIN Sports 1 (France)
This poll is closed
Real Madrid win