Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid meet Sunday night in league play for the 171st time.
Atlético (3-1-1, 10 points) enter the season’s first derby following a disappointing display at Bayer Leverkusen, where a shorthanded side lost 2-0 in Champions League group stage play. Atleti have not won consecutive league meetings with Madrid since 2014, and the Rojiblancos’ 1-0 win four months ago was their first of any kind against Los Blancos since the 2018 UEFA Super Cup.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Real Madrid (5-0-0, 15 points) have won every game between domestic and continental competitions so far. The reigning Spanish and European champions beat RB Leipzig with two late goals in midweek, but will be without superstar forward Karim Benzema on Sunday as the France international continues to nurse a muscle injury.
“Real Madrid have an extraordinary team, with young players who are making the leap along and others who have been performing at an extraordinary level for years,” Diego Simeone told the media on Saturday. “That’s why they have a habit of contending for trophies.”
Simeone confirmed that Jan Oblak, one of his own longstanding top performers, will be fit to start on Sunday after he missed the previous two games. El Cholo is unlikely to have his first-choice defense available with José Giménez and Stefan Savić trying to recover from injury, and the coach — who has been known to drop a surprise or two in his derby lineups over the years — appears to be planning changes elsewhere in the 11 this time, such as handing Matheus Cunha his first start this season or playing Ángel Correa as an interior midfielder.
“Injuries cost us a lot last season, especially the time Savic and Giménez were out, and we hope that doesn’t happen to us this season,” Simeone said. “The injured players are working hard to recover, they are important footballers for us and they give us other alternatives when preparing for the matches we have to play.”
Antoine Griezmann — whose six goals for Atlético against Real Madrid are the most of any current Colchonero — will start on the bench again, with no agreement yet struck to reduce the €40 million buy obligation included as a stipulation of his loan from FC Barcelona. João Félix (736 minutes) and Álvaro Morata (274 minutes) are both staring down long goal droughts that Simeone would like to see snapped on Sunday — when a victory could really jump-start Atleti’s league campaign.
“We understand that Morata and João are doing very well and that Griezmann is doing very well in the 30 minutes he gets,” Simeone said. “For the moment, this is what we’re deciding to do.”
Our warriors for Atleti-Real Madrid! pic.twitter.com/BFAtH54bho— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) September 18, 2022
Date Sept. 18, 2022
Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog Managing Madrid