Real Madrid await Atlético at the Bernabéu for the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final showdown between the two Liga clubs on Thursday night. This will be the 16th time the sides meet up in domestic cup elimination round play.
The cross-town rivalry has largely been dominated by los Merengues, who have bested los Rojiblancos in 10 of the previous 15 domestic cup knockout round encounters. The last time the teams faced off in Copa was in the 1993-94 edition’s Round of 16, where Real Madrid went through to the next stage after a tight 5-4 aggregate scoreline.
A deeply wounded Atleti must pick up the pieces and regroup following a catastrophic loss in Alicante on Monday as they make their way into enemy territory for the second Madrid derby of the season. Real shut out los Colchoneros 2-0 back in mid-November.
The result of this quarter-final first leg tie may end up re-defining our season, as we might be able to get a grasp of what we will be playing for from here on out. Elimination from the cup will centre our focus on our league campaign, which to date has been very inconsistent.
But, if we finally manage to triumph over our eternal rival and qualify for the next round, that act alone may just be enough for the Rojiblanco faithful to deem the season a successful one regardless of where we stand at the end of May.
Club directors summoned Atleti captains Antonio Lopez, Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero to a meeting yesterday, and confronted the players about the team’s poor showing against Hércules. The skippers were reminded of the importance of qualifying for Champions League and what it would mean to the organisation in economic terms.
Quique Sánchez Flores, undefeated in elimination round play with los Colchoneros, is not bothered at all by the fact that we haven’t beaten our neighbours in any competition since 1999.
“The recent history against Madrid doesn’t affect us,” he said. “This is an elimination round and we are four matches away from another final.
“The closest there is to a final right now is to eliminate Real. The adrenaline level is high.”
Included in the match selection were Atlético’s two signings of the winter transfer window. Elias, selected for our clash against Hércules, was forced to watch the debacle against the Alicante outfit from the stands as his transfer did not come in from Brazil in time. The 25-year-old midfielder still awaits confirmation from the league about his eligibility.
Our latest reinforcement, Juanfran, entered the match selection before even having been officially presented by the club. The former Osasuna man played his last match with los Rojillos on Sunday, and though the winger was selected for this game, it is unclear if he will be making his debut having spent little time with his new team-mates.
Tiago continues his recovery from his hamstring injury and misses out for a third straight time.
Newly-elected FIFA Manager of the Year José Mourinho has left out Sergio Canales and youth products David Mateos and Álvaro Morata from his selection for technical reasons.
The Special One will also be without Pepe, Dudek and Higuaín, all out with injuries, and without defensive midfielder Mahamadou Diarra, who was excused from this meeting due to personal reasons.
The second leg of the derbi Madrileño will take place at the Vicente Calderón next week.
Final prayer: Let’s do this! Aupa Atleti!
Atlético Madrid match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Godín, Ujfalusi, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea
Midfielders: Mariio Suárez, Raúl García, Elías, Fran Mérida, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke
Forwards: Forlán, Kun Agüero, and Diego Costa
Real Madrid match selection:
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Adán, Pacheco
Defenders: Carvalho, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Albiol, Garay
Midfielders: Gago, Khedira, Lass, Granero, Xabi Alonso, Canales, Di María, Kaká, Özil
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
Don’t forget to get in your Derby predictions for the AtleticoFans Prediction League!