How you feeling entering this derby, my friend?
Honestly, it’s hard to feel anything about this Real Madrid team. Zidane’s men have flattered to deceive all year. The team’s best run of form came about in the last derbi – two of the best performances of the season were during that period – one vs Mönchengladbach to secure UCL qualification and the other, obviously, versus Atleti at Valdebebas.
Madrid have ground out results and have been desperately lacking “gol.” Our saving grace this year has been the incredible form of Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić. Those two, coupled with Casemiro’s aerial prowess on set pieces, have kept us afloat. If Kroos and Modrić continue to bring it, Madrid always have a chance to win – even more so if Karim Benzema makes his return.
What encouraged or discouraged you about Monday’s draw versus Real Sociedad?
The performances of Kroos and Isco were the bright spots from the draw versus Real Sociedad. Given all the injuries, Isco has finally found a way back into the line-up. He played well vs. Atalanta as a false 9 and then continued with his positive form against Real Sociedad, that time playing on the left wing in place of Vinícius Jr.
Though, Madrid’s lack of pure goal-scorers was once again on show vs. La Real. Without Benzema, Zidane builds his attack around...drumroll please…Casemiro.
That was probably the most discouraging take-away from the Real Sociedad game.
Zinedine Zidane has tinkered a bit tactically in recent weeks. What might his plan be for Atlético away? Can you see him moving to a 3-5-2 to match Simeone?
I would be surprised if he moves to a 3-5-2, but you never know with Zidane. My assumption is that he will stick with the 4-3-3 and Benzema will be brought back into the team. The one surprise could be Rodrygo or a fifth central midfielder (counting Isco on the left) in Fede Valverde, operating on the right in place of Marco Asensio. The former Mallorca man has put in far too many poor performances of late.
When it’s all said and done, you think Sergio Ramos will renew his contract?
I do – despite all this drama, and the long, drawn-out negotiations, I think Sergio Ramos will be a Real Madrid player next season. His brother and agent, Rene Ramos, has pulled this whole act before. I wouldn’t be surprised if Florentino and Sergio just put this whole thing to bed in the next month or so.
You have the option to take back one of the three Atlético Madrid players who once played at RM’s academy — Mario Hermoso, Marcos Llorente, or Saúl. Who you taking, and why?
Real Madrid are in desperate need of the end production that Marcos Llorente has provided Atlético all season long. He has been without a doubt one of the best players in La Liga. He is now finally bearing the fruits of his labor. Llorente has a Cristiano Ronaldo–like work ethic and discipline. I am happy to see the effort and energy he puts in daily finally get rewarded, even if it’s at Atleti.
Hermoso has also been immense this year and I would take him back in a heartbeat. Versatile left-sided and left-footed center-backs are a rare commodity.
Your prediction, please.
A Madrid derbi at the Wanda? I’m going to go with a familiar score line, a 0-0 draw.