Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 4/5
Matchday 31 in La Liga will feature one of the most intense rivalries in the country, as Real Madrid will host Atletico Madrid in a pivotal match for both clubs. Los Merengues are coming off a 4-2 win over Leganes away from home, while Los Colchoneros secured their fifth straight win after defeating Real Sociedad 1-0 at home. Zinedine Zidane’s boys will look to inch closer to the league title, while Diego Simeone’s side will try to upset their bitter rivals in front of their own crowd.
As mentioned above, Real Madrid are coming off a 4-2 win over Leganes. Alvaro Morata starred in that game with a hat-trick, but the Spaniard is likely to return to a substitute role for this contest considering Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema should all be available. Zidane opted to rotate most of the squad with an eye on the upcoming fixtures – after the derby, Real Madrid have to prepare their UEFA Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, and they also play against FC Barcelona later this month. So with a packed schedule, Zidane needs everyone at their best both mentally and physically.
Their win against Leganes this past Wednesday was impressive thanks to players like Morata, James Rodriguez and Mateo Kovacic all contributing on the scoresheet. The win kept them at the top of the Liga standings, and right now it seems the league is theirs for the taking. They enter in good form too, having won their last five league contests.
As outlined above, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale missed the game against Leganes. However, they were not reported as injured so there is a chance both received some extra rest ahead of Saturday’s contest. The lone confirmed absentee is Raphael Varane, who will miss “at least a few weeks” with a hamstring issue. They do not have suspended players, either.
Atletico de Madrid
Atletico Madrid are also coming off a win, as they topped Real Sociedad 1-0 at home. Simeone has been making a few changes to the starting XI of late, but most of them have come due to rotation since Atletico are also competing in the UEFA Champions League. However, the Argentinian manager should have his best XI available ahead of this fixture.
One key aspect during their recent run of results is the defensive work, as Atletico have conceded only once during their five-game winning streak. It is not a coincidence that Simeone’s side have improved defensively since the return of Jan Oblak, though. The Slovenian international continues to prove he’s one of the best goalkeepers in Europe after enjoying a breakout season in 2015-16.
Augusto Fernandez is back in training, but the Argentinian midfielder is unlikely to feature since he lacks match fitness. Kevin Gameiro, Miguel Angel Moya, Nicolas Gaitan, Sime Vrsaljko and Tiago have been ruled out due to injury. As a result, Simeone’s depth for this contest will be a bit depleted.
Key Factors to Consider
- Both teams have won their last five league matches
- Real Madrid only have one clean sheet in their past five Liga matches, while Atletico have conceded just once over that span
- Atletico Madrid have won the last two meetings between the two at Santiago Bernabeu
- Real Madrid feature the second best attack in the league (78 goals), while Atletico have conceded the fewest goals (23 in 30 games)
- Real Madrid sit at the top of the table, while Atletico are 10 points behind them in third place
- The prior meeting between both sides this season ended in a 3-0 win for Real Madrid in Estadio Vicente Calderon
There is no question it will be a closed game between two of the hottest teams in La Liga. And if that is not enough, then we must consider we are talking about one of the biggest rivalries in Europe. It is the classic clash between attack and defence, but Real Madrid have a slight edge in this one since they play at home. Defeating Atletico would put them one step closer to win the title.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 4/5
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