When Atlético defeated Real Madrid to claim the Copa del Rey last May, they ended a barren fourteen-year, twenty-five game spell without victory against their rivals.
They will certainly be looking to make it two-for-two at the Bernabeu on Satuday night at 22:00 CET.
It was a purgative confrontation that night, in which the Rojiblancos at long last rid themselves of the submissive attitude that rendered them toothless whenever they faced the Merengues.
Under Cholo Simeone, Atlético had transformed into a confident, focused, organized team capable of taking on anyone, except the “big two.” Until that night in May…
With their triumph over Real Madrid, the Colchoneros proved that they belong amongst the best teams in Spain. They’re continuing to do so this season.
Six games into La Liga, they have a “perfect” record with six wins, and they only lost the Super Copa on away goals after holding Barcelona, another former bogeyman, to two draws.
Only the Blaugranas sit ahead of them in the league table, on account of a superior goal difference, while the Merengues trail them by two points, in third place.
Speaking, on the eve of Derbi Madrileño, Cholo explained that his side’s Copa del Rey victory “shook off many bad nights,” but it’s already in the past.
“Tomorrow is a new game, at which we arrive with a good record and the hope of doing well,” he said, before he dispelled the notion that his side are the favourites tomorrow.
“In this type of game there’s a lot of hope, a lot of enthusiasm. The opposing team have great financial power, big players and a great manager like Carlo [Ancelotti].”
He added: “I evaluate opponents who are better than us, who have a very rich squad, so we have to pay attention to what matters; what happens on the pitch and in the game.”
After making many changes to their playing and coaching staff during the summer, Real Madrid have yet to figure out their ideal lineup and playing style, something Cholo identified.
“Madrid have played with a 4-4-2 in their latest games and sometimes with a 4-3-3, like in Villarreal. They’re a team with great talent. There’s no clear formation. They’re in a coaching transition and we have to think about how to hurt them.”
As a symbolic gesture, Cholo has called up all players available to him, including Mario. The Spanish midfielder has made a lightning recovery after spraining his knee midweek.
Only Adrián is absent from the match selection. The forward continues his recovery from his cheekbone fracture, after undergoing surgery last week.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti revealed that star signing Gareth Bale will feature in the Madrid derby, before praising Atlético and denying that he hadn’t settled on a system for his team.
“I believe that he’ll be available and if so, I will take the decision on whether he can start the game or join in later. Marcelo is not available,” he said.
“After the match in the Copa del Rey, Atlético improved a lot. They have more confidence and they have a very strong team. It will be pretty tough game. We have the ability to do well and win.”
“We’ve played seven competitive games and it’s always been with a 4-4-2. This is the system. From time to time we’ve played well and other times not, but the reason isn’t that the system has changed. It’s always been the same.”
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois, Bono
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver
Forwards: Villa, Diego Costa, Léo Baptistão
Real Madrid match selection
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Jesús Fernández, Diego López
Defenders: Varane, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Coentrão, Carvajal, Arbeloa, Nacho
Midfielders: Khedira, Bale, Casemiro, Modrić, Di María, Isco, Illarra
Forwards: Ronaldo, Benzema, Jesé, Morata
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz