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Militao returns; Kroos, Modric start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Atletico

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Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will face the biggest test of their campaign to date when they lock horns with neighbours Atletico Madrid at the Civitas Metropolitano tonight.

Having lost the top spot in the La Liga standings to Barcelona, Los Blancos will be aware that anything less than a win would see them enter the international break behind their arch-rivals in the title race.

Add to it, they will also be motivated to win the bragging rights in the Madrid derby while looking to maintain their 100% win record in all competitions in 2022/23.

Unlike last season, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has not been shy of rotating his troops this time out. On Sunday, though, the Italian will pick his strongest possible XI to face Diego Simeone’s side and here we take a look at how the Merengues could line up at the Metropolitano.

Defence

The big boost for Real Madrid heading into the game is Eder Militao’s return to training after he missed the last two matches with an injury. The Brazilian should, in all likelihood, be reinstated to the starting lineup against the Rojiblancos.

Militao’s partner at the heart of the defence could likely be Antonio Rudiger, even though the German has not made the best possible start to life in Spain. His experience and aggressive nature could come in handy in a high-octane clash like the Madrid derby.

Should Rudiger slot in as the second centre-back, David Alaba will have to move to the left-back slot, with Ferland Mendy missing out from the lineup. Dani Carvajal is the undisputed starter at right-back, especially with Lucas Vazquez sidelined with injury.

Thibaut Courtois will guard the Real Madrid goal against his former club.

Midfield

Toni Kroos set to return to the lineup for the derby (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Luka Modric and Aurelien Tchouameni both started in the midweek win against RB Leipzig. The former has shown no signs of slowing down despite turning 37 while the latter has stepped into Casemiro’s shoes with ease. They should retain their spots in the lineup for the derby.

Eduardo Camavinga partnered the aforementioned duo against Leipzig but did not make the best impression. Furthermore, with Toni Kroos well-rested, the German pass master should come into the lineup and take up the third midfield slot ahead of the French wonderkid.

Attack

There is no reason for Ancelotti to change anything in attack especially with Karim Benzema still not available for selection. So, Rodrygo Goes should keep his spot as the No. 9 for Real Madrid against Atletico at the Metropolitano.

Rodrygo’s compatriot, Vinicius Jr, has been in the news leading up to the game due to the controversy surrounding him being subjected to a racist slur. So, all eyes will be on the 22-year-old forward, who will be Real Madrid’s chief threat in attack in Benzema’s absence.

Federico Valverde has scored two goals in the last two matches and will retain his spot on the right flank for the reigning champions of Spain later tonight.

Vinicius · Rodrygo · Valverde
Kroos · Tchouameni · Modric
Alaba · Rudiger · Militao · Carvajal
Courtois

Off the bench

Eduardo Camavinga has featured regularly this season whether as a starter or off the bench and is almost guaranteed to come on as a substitute at some point in the game on the night.

Nacho Fernandez is another player that Ancelotti relies on heavily and could opt to throw him on in the latter stages of the contest if Los Blancos are looking to protect a lead. Dani Ceballos could also get a shot in such a situation.

Marco Asensio will be hopeful of getting more minutes after he scored his 50th goal for Real Madrid in the midweek win over RB Leipzig.

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Features

Real Madrid 3-1 Atletico Madrid: Player Ratings

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

A scintillating Madrid derby saw Real Madrid leap past Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid by a scoreline of 3-1 to book a place in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. As one-sided as the scoreline looks, the game was far from that.

Atletico Madrid took the early lead through Alvaro Morata in the first half and held onto their lead for close to an hour. However, Rodrygo had other plans and equalised for the hosts with a stunning solo strike to force extra time.

Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr then scored in the first and second periods of extra time to give Real Madrid the win. Notably, Los Rojiblancos were down to ten men by that point, with Stefan Savic having been sent off.

Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings for both teams at the Madrid derby.

Real Madrid

Thibaut Courtois: 8.5

Absolutely gargantuan. Made a whopping five saves to keep his side in the game throughout, including four from inside the box.

Nacho Fernandez: 7.5

Playing as a right-back, Nacho did a great job at controlling Reinildo and Antoine Griezmann.

Eder Militao: 8

Calm, cool, and composed. 13 recoveries, seven clearances, four headed clearances, one interception and six duels won in addition to a game-high 117 passes.

Antonio Rudiger: 7

Tight performance from the German, was part of Real Madrid’s resilient defence that prevented an Atleti equaliser late on.

Ferland Mendy: 4

One of the Merengues’ worst players in the first half, limited their width in the final third and did not involve in the buildup. Replaced before half-time after suffering an injury.

Luka Modric: 7.5

Played the full 120 minutes and returned to his imperial best after a mild slump in recent games. Had 136 touches, completed 94% of his passes. Led the team with 22 passes into the final third and assisted Rodrygo’s opener.

Eduardo Camavinga: 7

Solid yet again. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Did well as the pivot against Simeone’s men, and showed the world that he can compete with Aurelien Tchouameni for a spot as the holding midfielder.

Toni Kroos: 7

Reliable as ever in his 74 minutes on the field. Completed 97% of his passes, created two chances and had 11 passes into the final third. Defensively, he recorded six recoveries, a headed clearance, two clearances and won three duels.

Federico Valverde: 6

A relatively sub-par performance from the Uruguayan. Took five shots against Real Madrid, but only one hit the target. Looked slightly off from the get-go but did not make any glaring mistakes either.

Karim Benzema: 8

A lively presence in attack created three chances and took four shots on the night. Had his big moment in the first half of extra time when he found himself at the receiving end of Rodrygo’s ball across the goal. Faced with an open goal, the Frenchman gave his side the lead.

Vinicius Jr: 8.5

Phenomenal, as is the norm. Was a constant threat down the left flank, and created five chances including a big chance. Got the assist to his name on the night, though Rodrygo deservedly can claim to have been the one to spot Benzema’s good position.

Scored a solo golazo in the final minute of the game to make it 3-1 after he ran past the entire Atleti defence and beat Oblak with a low shot.

SUBSTITUTES

Dani Ceballos: 8.5

Kept up his good form in the derby, and found Vinicius for the final goal of the game. Sensational cameo with 120 touches despite not playing the first half.

Rodrygo: 9

Game-changer. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

The youngster came on in the 70th minute for Valverde and got on the scoreboard just ten minutes later. Scored a world-class goal to level things up by running beyond four Atletico defenders and poking the ball past Oblak.

Was a lively presence throughout, and injected energy into Real Madrid’s forward line when they needed it the most. Assisted the second goal with great presence of mind.

Marco Asensio: 3

Discouraging cameo disappeared on the field after coming on.

Atletico Madrid

Jan Oblak: 6

Continued his poor run of form. Could have reacted better to both Rodrygo and Vinicius’ goals as he was easily beaten near the post.

Nahuel Molina: 7.5

The Argentine’s one-touch ball across the face of the goal after receiving Koke’s pass was the reason Los Rojiblancos could take the lead. Was massive in defence with six recoveries and three clearances. Not much he could do about the goals scored by Real.

Stefan Savic: 5

The veteran centre-back was taken to the cleaners by Rodrygo for Real Madrid’s equaliser but was solid for most of the remainder of the game. 

Made a headless decision to commit to a late poor tackle on Camavinga. As a result, he saw a second yellow and left his team a man down for extra time.

Mario Hermoso: 6.5

Average performance from the Spanish defender was left to fight a lone bate after Savic’s sending-off.

Reinildo: 5

One of the Rojiblancos’ most disappointing players against Real Madrid. Offered absolutely nothing in the final third and suffered defensively against Rodrygo in the second half.

Koke: 6.5

Was absolutely vital for Atletico’s opening goal as he found Molina with a very difficult lofted ball. However, a relatively average performance from the Spanish veteran apart from his moment of magic. Nothing flashy.

Rodrigo de Paul: 7

The World Cup winner played over 80 minutes and drove Atletico’s midfield. Created two chances and a big chance, and completed 90% of his attempted 71 passes. 

Thomas Lemar: 4.5

Barely visible in his 75 minutes on the field, no major contributions or extensive involvement in Atletico’s play.

Antoine Griezmann: 6.5

Knocked out. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

Led the charge for Atletico in attack and put in a hard-working defensive performance to back it up. Yet, one would expect more impact from a player of his stature.

Angel Correa: 5

Was a shadow of his true self, and lost a game-high nine duels at Santiago Bernabeu. 

Alvaro Morata: 8

Helped Atletico Madrid take the lead against his former club with a simple finish into an open goal. Had just 12 passes in 63 minutes, and completed just six. Could not record a single shot on goal apart from the one he scored from.

SUBSTITUTES

Axel Witsel: 4.5

Came on at the hour mark for Morata as Diego Simeone looked to flip on the defensive switch. Created and missed a big chance each during his stay on the field but was horribly undone by Rodrygo for the Merengues’ equaliser. Involved in another mess-up in Real Madrid’s second as he failed to clear the ball.

Yannick Carrasco: 4

Just 22 touches and 14 passes in close to 45 minutes of action. 

Memphis Depay: 6

Had a good chance to equalise in the 109th minute but put forward a tame effort. A good cameo from the Dutchman from a creative perspective, nevertheless.

Saul Niguez: 6

Good defensive numbers in his cameo but could not give Simeone’s side any edge in the final third. 

Geoffrey Kondogbia: 6

Nothing flashy from the central midfielder completed 100% of his attempted dribbles.

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