Real Madrid will aim to turn around a dismal recent record against city rivals Atletico when the clubs meet in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Since overcoming their neighbours to lift an historic 10th European crown last May, Real have failed to beat Atletico in six attempts.
A 1-0 defeat at the Vicente Calderon in August gave Atletico a 2-1 aggregate triumph in the Spanish Super Cup, and Diego Simeone’s side won by the same margin over 90 minutes when the teams met at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga three weeks later.
A 2-0 win on home turf for Atleti led them to a 4-2 victory across two legs in January’s Copa del Rey tie, and a 4-0 Liga humbling followed for Real in February.
The latter result and a haphazard negotiation of the Champions League last-16 encounter with Schalke served to increase discontent among the Real faithful with coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Nevertheless, there could still be a glorious conclusion to their season after Barcelona spurned a two-goal lead over Sevilla on Saturday to leave the door ajar in La Liga’s title race.
But settling a local score is Real’s immediate concern, and full-back Alvaro Arbeloa is confident Atleti’s derby dominance can be brought to an end.
“There’s a lot of hope and motivation among the squad,” he told reporters after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Eibar.
“We know we have not beat [Atletico] this year, but we believe we know why that is. There are good players on the [Real] bench who can change the game and on top of that we have the return leg at the Bernabeu.”
The Champions League represents Atletico’s remaining realistic chance to win silverware this term after the Liga title holders failed to gain ground on Barca and Real at the weekend.
Antoine Griezmann continued his rich vein of form with a brace in the 2-2 draw against Malaga, but fellow forward Fernando Torres believes coach Simeone holds the key to the team’s ongoing success in showdowns with Real.
“It is his character as a player and his character as a coach that drives the team,” Torres told UEFA.com.
“He knows we are a team that needs to know what we are about, our weaknesses and our strengths, but above all our weaknesses so we can then implement our qualities.
“We don’t have the options that Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern [Munich] or Chelsea have, we cannot drop points and make up for them later. We are a team that plays at our limit.”
Real are ready to welcome back Gareth Bale from an ankle problem, while midfielders Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez will return having missed out against Eibar through suspension.
Atletico striker Mario Mandzukic has scored twice against Real this term but is set to miss out with an ankle injury.
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