In just over 12 hours time, Atlético Madrid take the short journey north across the capital to take on arch rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.
The most important derby by far of the eight played this season, the outcome decides who plays in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, Europe’s premier club competition.
Kick-off in the second leg, with the score locked at 0-0 on aggregate, gets underway at 20:45 CEST.
Our opponents have been rocked by a number of injury blows, the majority of which were sustained in their weekend victory over Malaga.
Gareth Bale was the highest profile casualty, and the Welshman had to hobble off of the field just four minutes into their 3-1 win with a calf injury. The ex-Tottenham player is expected to miss up to three weeks.
Luka Modric joins him on the treatment table, after sustaining damage to his knee ligaments in the same match.
The worries for Carlo Ancelotti’s man don’t stop there – Karim Benzema was ruled out of the game too after picking up a similar knee injury. The Frenchman hasn’t played since coming off in the 76th minute against Atlético last week.
However despite the raft of injuries to our opponents, Diego Simeone is refusing to play up his side’s chances.
“I’m more interested in how we can hurt them, and am not thinking about Madrid’s injuries to Luka Modric and Gareth Bale,” Cholo told the media.
“The replacements – who have spent a long time on the bench for Madrid – are also dangerous. We are focused on our own preparation, we are only thinking about ourselves.”
For Atlético, the only absentee will be Mario Suárez, who is suspended after picking up a booking in the first leg. There’s also a small doubt over the other Mario. Mandzukic missed this weekend’s win over Deportivo with a recurrence of his ankle injury.
“He trained well yesterday,” Simeone said of the Croatian. “Let’s see how he feels in Tuesday’s session. We hope he will be okay to play,” he added.
“All of my players want to play and it won’t be easy to choose the starting line-up. I have an idea of who will play and they will be the first to know.”
Two players who will be a near certainty for the team sheet on Tuesday include Antoine Griezmann, who scored his 20th league goal of the season for Atleti on Saturday, and Jan Oblak, who had his best game in a rojiblanco shirt against Real Madrid last week.
In fact, if the Slovenian goalkeeper starts, he will be the only change from the side that defeated Real Madrid 4-0 at the Vicente Calderón only 2 months ago, if the side Cholo used in training is anything to go by.
It’s a tough task to repeat the famous performance from February, but Simeone knows what the player need to do in order to secure the win, and only the fifth European Cup semi-final in their history.
“These nights of football are rare and you have to live and play them. Anxiety, commitment, nerves… the players feel all of that. Those who manage to overcome all of that and play the match will have an advantage.”
Atleti will of course be looking to snatch a vital away-goal – something they prevented their neighbours from doing in the 0-0 draw at the Calderón.
“We have not beaten Atletico this season because they are a very strong side with one of the most solid defences in the world,” Carlo Ancelotti told the media.
“It is difficult to score goals against them. It will be a close game, hard-fought in all areas and intense. I do not think that Atletico will be in a hurry to score and neither will we.”
We hope we can prove him wrong, and snatch an important early goal.
Real Madrid squad list:
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Keylor Navas
Defenders: Pacheco, Varane, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrão, Carvajal, Arbeloa, Nacho
Midfielders: Kroos, James, Khedira, Lucas Silva, Isco, Illarramendi
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Chicharito, Jesé
Atlético squad list:
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Gámez, Ansaldi, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez, Lucas
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl, Cani
Forwards: Griezmann, Mandzukic, Raúl Jiménez and Fernando Torres