Atlético Madrid will play the 2021/22 season’s first Madrid Derby on Sunday night at the Santiago Bernabéu, where league-leading Real Madrid can all but end this year’s title race with another win.
Real Madrid (12-3-1, 39 points) have rung up nine consecutive victories between LaLiga and the Champions League and last lost at Espanyol over two months ago. Atlético (8-5-2, 29 points) still have a game in hand to make up later this month at Granada, but failing to stop Madrid’s runaway train on Sunday will virtually put an end to hopes of claiming back-to-back league titles.
“We are going to play a very important game, as it always is against our (historical) rival,” Diego Simeone said on Saturday. “They are in a great run of form. They have shown since Ancelotti’s arrival a defensive strength that enhances all their offensive weapons.
“We will have to take the game where we think we can hurt them.”
Simeone will be happy to have another central defender available to him as Felipe Monteiro returns to the side, but the coach is still contending with several absences at the back. José Giménez and Stefan Savić remain injured, while Šime Vrsaljko had a jaw operation on Friday. Kieran Trippier (shoulder sprain) has been included in the squad, but is unlikely to play a significant role in the game.
Real Madrid’s primary fitness concern centered on Karim Benzema, but the Frenchman is included in los blancos’ squad for tomorrow.
Luis Suárez has trained normally the past two days, and Cholo confirmed El Pistolero would be available to play. Matheus Cunha has had the inside track on a place in the starting 11 next to Antoine Griezmann — who scored the game’s only goal when Atlético last beat Real Madrid in LaLiga, nearly six years ago.
“Antoine always wanted to return. He is where he wants to be,” Simeone said. “Hopefully he can continue to improve and continue to grow, because we need him.
“This is what makes you stand out within our team: talent plus sacrifice plus effort. Knowing how to compete. Knowing how to play in any position on the field, as he did (against Porto) at left wing-back.”
Atlético have not won any of the past 10 league derbies against its eternal rival and only one of the past eight in any competition. Atleti have been inconsistent all season and are running out of opportunities to turn the proverbial corner — though Tuesday’s stirring win at Porto to clinch a Champions League knockout stage berth is the latest (and possibly last) chance to do so.
“(Real Madrid) know that we are competitive, and they know that they will not have an easy game tomorrow,” Simeone said.
Date Dec. 12, 2021
Location Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, 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 site Managing Madrid (read our Q&A with them, and theirs with us)
Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)