Atlético Madrid begin a decisive February with a Madrid Derby at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Diego Simeone’s mattress makers are winless since the last derbi — the one in Saudi Arabia, with a domestic cup on the line. Atlético have failed to recover Koke and José Giménez since that game, while Santiago Arias, Kieran Trippier and João Félix have been sidelined with injury in the meantime. Atleti have slipped to fifth in the table and risk falling out of the European places entirely with a loss.
Real Madrid are unbeaten in 19, sit three points clear of Barcelona and boast the league’s best defense. Sixteen different players have scored for Madrid this season, which advanced in the Copa del Rey midweek following a 4-0 thrashing of Real Zaragoza.
Atlético have won or drawn each of the past six league derbies at the Bernabéu, a run not seen in Spanish football since the 1940s. Simeone and Zinedine Zidane have matched wits as coaches six times in LaLiga, with each man overseeing one victory.
Yannick Carrasco is in the squad as he embarks on a second tour of duty in the Spanish capital. Carrasco, of course, scored in a Champions League final against Saturday’s opponent nearly four years ago. Atlético B stalwart Toni Moya has been named to the squad alongside teenagers Sergio Camello and Manu Sánchez.
Possible XI Oblak; Vrsaljko, Felipe, Savić, Lodi; Thomas, Herrera, Saúl, Correa; Vitolo, Morata.
Prediction 2-0 Real Madrid. Earlier this week, Managing Madrid’s Kiyan Sobhani asked me for my thoughts on this match — including its potential scoreline. I’ve grown more pessimistic since that chat, thinking about each team’s respective situation and keeping in mind the news that Koke and Trippier are definitely out along with Félix.
Atlético have little recourse if the gameplan goes awry early — unless Simeone decides to throw Carrasco or Thomas Lemar into the fire right away — and the eternal rival will probably pick out a hole or two as the game rolls along. As in the Supercopa, los Blancos will attack the full backs — in this case, inexperienced Renan Lodi and rusty Šime Vrsaljko.
Real Madrid smell blood in LaLiga’s waters and have not won a league derby at home in over seven years. If not now — against Atlético in this form, pummeled by injury and grappling with self-doubt — when?
My record on the season 16-14
Date Feb. 1, 2020
Location Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
Kickoff time 4:00 p.m. CET, 3:00 p.m. GMT, 10:00 a.m. EST, 7:00 a.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog Managing Madrid
Available TV/streaming Movistar+ (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), Free (France), ESPN Play Sur (Argentina), Eleven Sports 1 (Belgium), Canal+ (Poland), Sky HD (Mexico), Guangdong Sports Channel (China)