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Atlético de Madrid - Real Madrid CF: Derby day in the capital

Atlético hope to slow down Real Madrid and “Bellinghamania.”

Football, Champions League: Lazio - Atletico Madrid
It’s up to Jan Oblak to organize a defense that hasn’t kept a clean sheet this month.
Photo by Elianton/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid will meet Sunday night in the season’s first Madrid Derby.

Atlético Madrid (2-1-1, 7 points) have failed to win either of its past two games since the FIFA break earlier this month, losing heavily at Valencia before conceding a 95th-minute equalizer to Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provedel in the Champions League. Injuries, particularly to Diego Simeone’s midfield, have left Atlético unable to function for large portions of those two games. The tide must be turned against bitter rivals Real Madrid and Los Vikingos’ new galáctico, Jude Bellingham.

Real Madrid CF v 1. FC Union Berlin: Group C - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Jude Bellingham (6 goals in 6 games) has already emerged as Real Madrid’s top attacking threat.
Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Before the season began, Simeone told Marca that Atlético’s supporters don’t want third-place finishes every season — they want to be champions. A victory over Madrid (5-0-0, 15 points) would serve as a proper kickstart to a potential league title challenge. Otherwise, Atleti face an 11-point gap in LaLiga before the calendar even flips to October.

“Madrid and Barcelona can always afford to have great footballers, but even so, we’ve always been able to compete with them,” Simeone said. “We have to think more about ourselves and continue looking for the best paths to compete as we’ve done for 11 years.”

Atlético have certainly competed with Madrid in recent years — Los Rojiblancos have finished above their city rivals four times in the past 10 seasons, include league wins in 2014 and 2021. But Atleti have logged just one win from the past 14 derbies in LaLiga — a stretch spanning nearly seven calendar years.

Simeone is keen to end that run against Carlo Ancelotti’s injury-wracked side, which lost goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and center-back Éder Militão to season-ending injuries in August. Right-back Dani Carvajal won’t play Sunday either, while star winger Vinícius Jr. was poised to make his return until stomach problems scuppered those plans.

SS Lazio v Atletico Madrid: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Simeone directs Samuel Lino during Tuesday’s game at Lazio. Lino will likely make a second consecutive start at left wing-back.
Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images

There was good news on the injury front for Simeone this week, as club captain Koke returned to full training alongside forward Memphis Depay. Koke will probably start in midfield for the injured Pablo Barrios, who picked up a muscle strain against Lazio and is not expected back for multiple weeks.

Saúl and Marcos Llorente are expected to complete the midfield trio next to Koke, while José Giménez should make his first start of the 2023/24 season next to Mario Hermoso and Stefan Savić in defense. Up top, Antoine Griezmann and Álvaro Morata will be tasked with finding a way past Kepa Arrizabalaga in Los Blancos’ net.

Date Sept. 24, 2023

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CEST, 8:0 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. ET, 12:00 p.m. PT

Opposition blog Managing Madrid

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), DAZN (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)