It’s the weekend that Atlético supporters all over the globe look forward to, and indeed dread in equal measure.
On Saturday, the Rojiblancos make the short journey north in search of their first derbi win in 12 years. Awaiting us are a Real Madrid side fresh off the back of their 13th consecutive win.
Kick-off at the Santiago Bernabéu is set for 20:00 CET.
No matter how big the gap between the sides may become, fans always believe going into this game that it could finally be the time we put an end to our miserable recent record.
However, Atleti were dealt a major blow this morning with the news that star striker Radamel Falcao would miss the game as a result of his nagging hamstring injury. The Colombian has been largely ineffective away from the Vicente Calderón this season, but his quality is always missed when not in the team.
Starting in his place for the second successive week will be the in-form Adrián, with Diego and Arda likely to provide ammunition in behind.
The occupant of the third attacking position could prove to be a problem for selection though, after Pizzi and Reyes both impressed off the bench against Levante last weekend.
Manzano’s differences with the Andalusian have been well documented over the past month, but it may be best for him to swallow his pride and opt for experience in a game of this magnitude.
Also missing will be Sílvio. The Portuguese defender limped out of the Levante game due to a knee injury, and could be sidelined for up to a month.
Coming into the squad are defenders Godín and Pulido, as well as Gabi, who pulled out before kick-off last week with illness.
Antonio López is still recovering from surgery and does not make the call, similar to Tiago who is nursing a rib problem.
As usual in the build-up to a derby, a number of players have been discussing our chances over the last week, including Adrián and Godín in this inventive video from the club website.
Meanwhile, Diego spoke in a press conference yesterday, and insisted that the team is confident of getting a result.
“We have to use our quality and personality and take our chances,” said the Brazilian.
“Real Madrid have to be respected, they are the favourites,”
“They are very strong, but we will try everything to put in a good performance.”
Also speaking this morning was Manzano, who highlighted the importance of the ‘good’ Atlético turning up for the game.
“We will try and prevent them from playing to their strengths,” he said.
“From this point of view we have to keep it tight. Madrid are very good on the counter attack.”
The Jaén-born manager also clarified the situation with Falcao.
“It is 100 per cent that he will not be available. It’s impossible,” he said.
“We do not want to take an unnecessary risk.”
For los Blancos, the main selection news is the return to fitness of Ángel di María and Marcelo. Their only notable absentees are Ricardo Carvalho and Kaká, who have both been out for over a month.
Manager José Mourinho was respectful towards Atlético in his pre-match interview, stressing that it would be no easy game for his team.
“Derbies are derbies and this one will also be complicated,“ said the 49-year-old.
“I expect Atletico Madrid to give a great performance.”
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda, Pulido
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Assunção, Gabi, Koke, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Pizzi
Real Madrid match selection:
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Adán, Mejías
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo, Albiol, Coentrão
Midfielders: Özil, Di María, Şahin, Alonso, Altintop, Callejón, Lass, Granero, Khedira
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
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