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Three talking points ahead of Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid



Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

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.

Barcelona have moved to the top of the La Liga table (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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.

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Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place



Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.

The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.

Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.

1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?

Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.

An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.

The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.

Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.

In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.

It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.

2. A day of farewells

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.

Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.

With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.

The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.

Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.

3. A tight race for second place

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.

Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.

Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.

With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.

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