This year’s El Derbi madrileno is unlikely to have any effect on the La Liga title chase, but that does not make the highly anticipated clash at Santiago Bernabeu any less interesting. Besides the bragging rights in the capital, the local rivals will also be playing to stay clear of Villarreal, who could put their place in the Champions League group stages in danger.
The heavy investment in the playing squad hasn’t exactly paid off at Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid have struggled to match arch rivals Barcelona, while also trailing Atletico Madrid at times. The club chiefs didn’t make it any easier for the team by appointing Rafael Benitez last summer, while the jury is still out on his successor Zinedine Zidane, who did manage to stabilise the team after a difficult start. At least the Frenchman has succeeded in establishing a good rapport with the players, something that was missing during Rafael Benitez’s reign, and this resulted in some very good performances. Los Blancos impressed to record a 2-0 triumph over AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico and thus virtually secured their place in the Champions League quarter-finals, but last week’s draw with Malaga all but ended their La Liga title hopes. Therefore, Real will want to make amends for said setback when they host Atletico Madrid on Saturday afternoon, and we fully expect them to attack their local rivals from the off.
It remains to be seen whether Marcelo will be risked after picking up a minor muscle strain, but the Brazilian may be rested considering that he also carries a shoulder injury.
The good news is that Karim Benzema has fully recovered from a hip problem, but Gareth Bale and Pepe are not yet ready to return.
Atletico Madrid have done brilliantly to keep up with El Clasico rivals in recent years, and they head into El Derbi madrileno one point clear of their bitter rivals. But, similar to los Blancos, los Colchoneros are not really in the title chase after the goalless draw with Villarreal, although at least they kept a five-point advantage over their rivals for a top 3 berth. Despite failing to win their last two fixtures, Diego Simeone is likely to be delighted with impressive defensive performances that saw his charges keep three clean sheets on the bounce, with Atletico also holding PSV Eindhoven to a goalless draw in midweek. Los Colchoneros will have to make do without Stefan Savic at Santiago Bernabeu, but that is unlikely to prove a major issue seeing that Jose Maria Gimenez is ready to deputize. As that is usually the case, Diego Simeone will adopt a cautious approach against Real Madrid, but he will certainly instruct his players to use every opportunity they get to hit the hosts on the break.
Stefan Savic has been ruled out with a calf injury sustained in Eindhoven, meaning that Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez will form the centre-back pairing.
Tiago Mendes and Yannick-Ferreira Carrasco are highly unlikely to be in contention, but talented midfielder Thomas Partey is back from a muscle problem.
Key Factors to Consider
- Real have just one win in last 11 meetings with Atletico (90 mins)
- Los Blancos won the previous meeting at the Bernabeu (1-0)
- The reverse fixture at Vicente Calderon ended all squared (1-1)
- Atletico did not concede in last three matches
- Real Madrid won last eight home fixtures, scoring 45 goals
Real Madrid have been scoring goals for fun of late and with Karim Benzema back to the side, los Blancos should be able to extend the run against rock-solid Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros will get plenty of chances to deploy their trademark counterattacks, and chances are that we will again see goals galore at the Bernabeu.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 10/11
Bookmaker: William Hill
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