The attention of Madrid again turns to the Vicente Calderón on Saturday afternoon, as Real Madrid travel the short distance to take on Atlético in this season’s sixth derbi madrileño.
Kick-off in the capital is at 16:00 CET.
Atleti are unbeaten in the five games so far this season, and go into the league encounter knowing that a win is crucial if they are going to mount a serious title defence this season.
Going into the weekend, Atleti are seven points behind their cross-town rivals, after Real won their game in-hand midweek against Sevilla. A win for Atleti would put them within four points – but a loss and it’s ten.
The 2-1 win over Sevilla wasn’t all good news for los blancos. James Rodríguez broke his foot in the victory, and the Colombian international has been ruled out for 2 months. He will miss the game, along with Sergio Ramos who is also struggling with injury.
Marcelo picked up a dubious yellow card in the win, which despite an appeal, was upheld meaning that he will also miss the derby as it was his fifth of the season. Pepe is out, which means Real will be play a much changed team on Saturday.
Returning to the fold, after completing a two-match ban, is Cristiano Ronaldo. He will slot in opposite Gareth Bale to replace the injured James.
Despite the changes, the game will still be tough, but it’s vital the players remember how important it is.
“We want to win. We always want to win and even more so against Real Madrid. It’s a different match – and just because we won the previous match doesn’t mean we’re going to win this one,” Diego Godín told the press at a post-training press conference.
“Real play with very fast players up front, so we’ve been working on countering their strengths. One of them is the counter-attack, of course. We’ll try to be careful, especially when we have possession of the ball. When they steal it, they are the most dangerous in the world.”
After missing the game at Eibar, Arda Turan returned to training on Thursday, and was included in the practice team that Cholo likes to experiment with in training.
Also training well was Tiago, who had been struggling earlier in the week. The Portugese midfielder is a veteran of games against Real Madrid.
“When you play against the best teams, I think it’s the small details that can decide a game,” he told the Mahou Q&A before the derby.
“For me I think it will be important for us to make a strong start to the game, trying to get a goal and to give us even more confidence.”
“We’ll be trying to reduce or nullify the threats of Real Madrid and their great players, whilst also trying to make sure our own players have a great game.”
With Cristian Ansaldi also returning, Simeone has a full squad at his disposal for the first time since November, and opted to call up all 21 players for the clash.
The Argentine tactician has had a full week to prepare having not played in midweek, and seemed focused and upbeat when speaking with press in Majadahonda on Friday morning.
“I always insist that words do not count for much before a game. The only thing that matters is that when the match starts, we’re prepared to play the game we need to,” he said.
“We’re very respectful to all our rivals. We know that we’re facing a great team, with excellent players and a grand coach. With our characteristics and our ideas, we’ll try to take the match where we want to.”
Cholo confirmed that Mandžukić and Griezmann would start up front, with Fernando Torres having to settle for a place on the bench.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Ansaldi, Gámez, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl, Cani
Forwards: Mandžukić, Raúl Jiménez, Torres