Just 65 hours after their second goalless draw in two games, Atlético look to get back on the scoresheet Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu where they take on arch-rivals Real Madrid.
Kickoff in the capital is set for 16:00 CET. (After it was moved for the Asian market.)
Just one point behind Atlético, Real Madrid have been a different team at home and away since hiring club legend Zinedine Zidane as manager.
Los Blancos won their first match under new management 5-0 over Celta Vigo and have outscored visiting opponents 16-3 in 2016. In away matches however, Real Madrid suffered 1-1 draws to mid-table sides Real Betis and Málaga with a lone 2-1 win at relegation side Granada.
Atleti have also had a mixed 2016, winning their first three matches of the calendar year before a 0-0 draw with Sevilla and a 2-1 loss at Barcelona. They picked themselves up with wins over Eibar and at Getafe, but drew 0-0 both in league and Champions League against Villareal and PSV Eindhoven, respectively.
Yannick Ferriera Carrasco is still suffering from an ankle injury he picked up at Getafe and will miss the game on Saturday.
José Giménez will slot into his center back position again after serving a discipline ban against Villareal. The young Uruguayan was eligible for the game with PSV, but Simeone preferred to go with Stefan Savic, who has since picked up an injury.
Augusto was on the bench at PSV and is likely to make his first start back from a ligament injury in his left knee that he suffered at Barcelona on January 31.
Marcelo missed training this week for Real Madrid after a shoulder injury, and Zidane announced he would not play. Zidane noted that Danilo is “perfect”, meaning he is likely to replace Marcelo in the lineup while Nacho is also an option.
Karim Benzema missed the Málaga game and some training this week with a hip problem, but made the squad and is likely to start up top for Los Blancos.
Second place in La Liga adds to the stakes in this match, and it will be interesting to see which lineup Diego Simeone chooses ahead of Saturday’s game.
The Argentine manager changed to a 4-4-2 in Holland, bringing young players Óliver Torres and Luciano Vietto back into the side for Ángel Correa and Fernando Torres.
By the 74th minute, Correa and Torres were on the pitch and it was back to 4-3-3. Despite the lack of goals, both lineups produced great attacking play, albeit against a lesser defense than Real Madrid’s.
Óliver’s creativity and Fernando Torres’ striking prowess will be needed against a Real Madrid side that averages five goals at home under Zidane. Look for them in the 4-4-2 on Saturday.
Real Madrid have also made changes to their line-up, starting Jesé and Mateo Kovacic at Málaga in order to rest Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez. Isco moved into the center forward position in that match, but the 1-1 result means Zidane will likely revert back to the 4-3-3 he chose at Roma.
The link up play between James, Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo has been superb and will be tough to stop even for the team with the best defensive record in Europe.
The key player in the match will be Antoine Griezmann. The French striker has not scored since January 17th at Las Palmas and Atlético will be looking to him for goals on Saturday.
“We know that Atlético are a team that defends well, but not only that, they’re a complete team with big players,” Zidane said in the pre-match press conference. “The derby will be difficult and the important thing is we know what we have to do.” He also called on the supporters, “I ask that the Real Madrid fans start strongly like the players.”
“It’s a tough rival, difficult, with an enormous offensive potential” Diego Simeone said. He is confident in his defenders however, “We play in a very defined way and we won’t leave that line. We will try to take the match to where we can feel most comfortable.”
Anything less than a win is likely to spell the end of either side’s title hopes, whilst Atleti will be keen to tighten its grip on second place as the season enters its final stretch.
Atletico squad to play Real Madrid:
Goalkeepers: Jan Oblak and Miguel Ángel Moyá.
Defenders: Diego Godín, Filipe Luis, José Giménez, Juanfran, Jesús Gámez, and Lucas.
Midfielders: Koke, Matias Kranevitter, Augusto, Óliver, Gabi, Saúl and Thomas.
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres, Ángel Correa and Luciano Vietto.