In recent years, the race for the La Liga title has boiled down consistently to three contenders- Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, football does not disappoint when any two of the three teams face off against each other.
Add to that the spice of a derby and one has a real game on his hands. The Madrid derby has been one of Spain’s biggest games for years now but its importance has seen a sharp rise in the past decade.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side face off against Diego Simeone’s team on Sunday night at the Civitas Metropolitano. The hype leading into the game has been nothing short of surreal and one can expect fireworks when the proceedings kick off.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the much anticipated Madrid derby.
1. Derby rule No.1 – no favourites
If there is one thing football has taught us over the years, it is the fact that there is no favourite in the Madrid derby. Form and momentum are just insignificant words heading into the Spanish capital’s biggest clash, and history is witness to the fact that both teams are equal competitors.
Of the last three meetings between the rivals, one ended in a draw and two results were decisive. Last season, Los Blancos got the better of Simeone’s men at the Bernabeu but fell to a 1-0 defeat at the Metropolitano in May.
Atletico Madrid have not enjoyed the best of starts in La Liga this season. While they have won three of their five games so far, their loss to Villarreal and draw to Real Sociedad show that they have struggled in the big games.
Moreover, they head into Sunday’s clash off the back of a 2-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League.
Yet, Simeone’s men will come out all guns firing knowing well that a loss could push them into the bottom half of the table. The fear of the consequences of slipping up is more in the minds of Atletico’s players, and that could prove decisive in Sunday’s clash.
2. A must-win to retain the top spot
While Simeone’s side indeed are the team that needs the win more, Real Madrid too have something to fight for. Los Blancos have been atop the league table from Matchday 1, but their claim to the top position is now under serious threat from Barcelona.
With their 3-0 win over Elche on Saturday, Xavi’s men have moved to the numero uno spot in the standings. They are just one point above Real Madrid but seven goals ahead on goal difference.
Even a draw at the Metropolitano will see Ancelotti’s men fail to reclaim their top spot. Needless to say, that is not how Real Madrid want to enter the international break.
If the champions are to win on Sunday, they will have to be solid all over, starting from the defence. Ancelotti’s side are yet to keep a clean sheet in La Liga this season and conceding a goal to Atletico would be nothing short of burning their own skin.
At the same time, they cannot afford to hold back in attack given what is at stake.
3. Vinicius in the spotlight
Vinicius Jr has headlined Spanish media over the past couple of days for the controversy around his celebrations. The Brazilian’s dance came under heavy scrutiny and was deemed to be ‘disrespectful’ to the opponent by many.
The saga ended with the youngster publishing a statement on his social media that he would not stop his post-goal ritual as he rightfully hit back at individuals who made racist remarks about him.
Needless to say, Vinicius will be pumped to deliver a game-changing performance at the Civitas Metropolitano and perform his dance in the derby atmosphere.
Karim Benzema will miss the clash through his knee injury. In his absence, all eyes will be on the 22-year-old Brazilian to find the back of the net and lead the charge for Los Blancos. Now, with the primer of controversy around him, the spotlight will shine even brighter.
Not many in the world can boast of answering critics on the field better than Vinicius. The youngster thrives under pressure-cooker situations, especially when he is the centre of attention and Sunday’s clash gives him the perfect environment to bring out his best.
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings
Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.
Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.
Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.
Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.
Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.
Lucas Vazquez: 7
Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5
Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.
Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.
Ferland Mendy: 7
A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.
Federico Valverde: 8
By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5
Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.
Toni Kroos: 7
With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.
Brahim Diaz: 7.5
Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.
Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.
Vinicius Jr: 7.5
With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.
Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.
Luka Modric: 8.5
Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.