Three days after moving top of La Liga, Atlético can go a step further on Wednesday night as they look to secure their place in a second successive Copa del Rey final.
Last week, the red and whites beat Athletic Bilbao to become the first team to win in the new San Mamés, but face an even tougher task here in a Real Madrid side out for revenge against Diego Simeone’s team.
Kick-off at the Bernabéu is set for 20:00 CET.
Losing last year’s final in their own backyard was a bitter blow for Real Madrid to take, and having also been defeated in September’s league meeting, they would see this as the perfect way to prove that it is they, still, who are the dominant force in the capital.
Right now though, the debate is more than open. “El domina el mar, nosotros la capital” ([Neptune] rules the sea, we rule the capital), read the banner in the Bernabéu last May, and having won 4 out of 4 Madrid derbies since then, you would find it hard to make an argument.
Not to mention that it is Atlético Madrid who sit 3 points clear of La Liga currently, taking advantage of Barcelona’s shock home defeat to Valencia in rampant fashion – and paying tribute to the recently deceased Luis Aragoné in the process – with a 4-0 thumping of Real Sociedad on Sunday evening.
David Villa opened the scoring and pointed to the skies in celebration, but unfortunately limped off with a hamstring strain shortly after and will miss the first leg at least of the cup semi-final. Mario Suárez is also left out of the squad, despite making his return from a long term lay-off at the weekend.
There is positive news though in that Arda Turan is back and in line for a starting role, as does Tiago to add depth to our midfield options. Filipe Luís is the only other injury absentee, and is still a few weeks away from regaining fitness.
Rojiblanco supporters will be most encouraged by reports that Diego Ribas will start his first game back in their colours, having re-debuted and scored all before his presentation and first training session on Monday morning.
The Brazilian’s signing could not have come at a better time, and having enjoyed a lengthly winter break with former club Wolfsburg, looks to be in perfect condition to help the team continue to compete on three fronts.
In his press conference, Simeone insisted that even with Diego, he won’t make any changes to the style that has served him so well, and is looking forward to taking on our city rivals once again.
“We will keep playing our game,” he said. “Ever since the first match against Sant Andreu, we’ve respected the Cup and hope to get as far as possible, so we will continue with the same attitude.”
“Real Madrid will start as the favourite but that does not mean that they will be on the night, things are very different over two legs and both teams have the same possibilities.”
“Recently they have found a system with a 4-3-3 where the front is much more powerful, it has speed, counter attack and they are definitely playing better, but this is normal.” he finished
Switching to the Real camp, and much has been made this week of Cristiano Ronaldo‘s controversial disimissal their draw at Athletic on Sunday. The Portuguese superstar saw red for lashing out at an opponent but also looked to be guilty of further offences, including violent conduct and gesturing to officials.
The Spanish FA are still reviewing the case and extent of his ban, although on the night of his 29th birthday, he is expected to be available to take on Atlético.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti has named 22 players in his matchday squad including Ronaldo, as well as record signing Gareth Bale following another spell on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Iker Casillas will get the nod in goal.
The Italian tactician spoke to reporters on Tuesday, and stressed the importance of his side not conceding an away goal ahead of the return leg in the Calderón next Tuesday.
“Tomorrow a different Real Madrid will play to the team that played Atlético in the league,” he said. “I think we’re playing well and are confident at the moment, there is still room for improvement but I am happy with the team.”
“We will have the support of our fans tomorrow which is always important. We have to try to keep a clean sheet and win the game.”
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Diego, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Diego Costa
Real Madrid match selection:
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Diego López, Jesús
Defenders: Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Carvajal, Arbeloa, Nacho, Coentrão
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso, Bale, Modric, Illarra, Casemiro, Isco, Di María
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Morata, Jesé
Referee: Carlos Clos Gómez