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Real Madrid 1-0 Atlético Madrid: A Madrid Derby journal

A running thought-stream on Atlético’s loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Minutes 1-30

The best Atlético Madrid have looked in weeks. No, not so thrilled that there does not appear to be a clear, consistent plan — and Álvaro Morata has dropped deep into a playmaking role(?). But Atlético created the best chance on 18 minutes when Vitolo lashed Šime Vrsaljko’s cross at a diving Thibaut Courtois, and Diego Simeone’s men have made the most out of 33 percent possession. Ángel Correa hit the post from a very tight angle, too.

That said, far from perfect. Toni Kroos created two decent chances for Sergio Ramos in the opening 10 minutes (you just expect him to score after all these years of victimizing the Rojiblancos). Zinedine Zidane decided to employ a 4-2-3-1, with Casemiro and Fede Valverde playing deepest — though Valverde made bounding runs up the right, as he did during the Supercopa — while Kroos, Isco and Luka Modrić are roaming behind Karim Benzema.

Vitolo became effective in finding the hole between midfield and defense — he turned around defenders a couple times as well. Happy with Marcos Llorente’s energy, and as usual in this fixture, Thomas Partey has been a machine.


Casemiro lunged to poke the ball away from Morata in the box and brought down his former teammate instead. No vociferous penalty appeals, but looked like it warranted a review.

Correa blew a chance on 42 minutes — though he was a couple steps offside. Looked like Vrsaljko sent him through. Raphaël Varane’s pressure got to the Argentine and he rolled the shot through the six-yard box.

I wouldn’t say Real Madrid have been predictable, but the only instances in which the hosts have generated danger came from set pieces. Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy have been heavily involved and totaled 96 first half touches, but the full back duo has combined for just one key pass. Madrid’s only shot on target at halftime was a long-range Modrić attempt that Jan Oblak caught with ease.

It wouldn’t really be a Madrid Derby if Simeone didn’t see a yellow card. He saw said card a few minutes before halftime after protesting the fact that Real Madrid had nine first half fouls without a booking.

I don’t know how Simeone can meaningfully deviate from this plan in the second half. Yannick Carrasco hasn’t played since the Chinese season ended in December and Thomas Lemar hasn’t played in 2020 either, but both will enter the match.


Vinicíus Júnior AND Lucas Vázquez are on at halftime — Isco and Toni Kroos(!) have made way. It doesn’t take Simeone long to make his first chance, and it’s Morata(!!) making way for Lemar on 50 minutes. An injury to Atlético’s only established #9 would...suck.

Valverde is involved AGAIN, and Oblak has to keep out his shot with a leaping save on 47 minutes. Correa has moved up top and is basically playing as a nine — looks like a Christmas tree formation with Vitolo and Lemar more withdrawn on either side.

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real Madrid get the opener on 56 minutes. Ferland Mendy times his run perfectly, leaves Lemar for dead and sets up an easy finish for Benzema. Felipe and Savić were caught looking. That’s the Frenchman’s first goal versus Atlético at the Bernabéu.


All Real Madrid now. Atleti can’t get out of the final third and there’s no movement from the bench. Simeone’s strange dice roll really hasn’t worked out.

It is around this time that AS reports Morata was removed as a precautionary measure — muscular discomfort. Variations on a theme, etc.

Carrasco replaces Vitolo on 72 minutes. One direct winger for another — though Carrasco’s explosiveness, you’d hope, can change the match much like Vinicíus’ entry did for Real Madrid.

Then again, Correa and Lemar are the forwards...until young Sergio Camello replaces Thomas Partey, who had slowed down in the second half as Madrid worked around him.

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images


Game is petering out. Atlético are pushing up but losing the ball too easily and failing to challenge Courtois. The Vikings still look comfy.

Carrasco took Ramos for a spin on the boundary line, which led to a corner that came to nothing.

Madrid are really, really good defensively. Ramos is having a whale of a game and they cut out angles so well. Atleti have produced one chance in the second half and are being outshot 16-4. Zidane’s made excellent adjustments, and despite the slim scoreline this has been pretty easy for his side.

And that’s it — los Blancos have defeated los Rojiblancos in a home league derby for the first time since 2012. Atlético have won just six times from the past 19 league games and stay fifth for now, while Madrid take another step toward winning the league for the first time since 2017.