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.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Osasuna
After a two-week hiatus from club football, Real Madrid return to action on Sunday night in a home game against Osasuna. The league leaders have been unstoppable so far this season, and the objective at the Bernabeu will be to keep their fine form going.
Jagoba Arrasate’s side have enjoyed a positive start to the season with four wins in six games so far. The Pamplona-based side sit sixth in the league standings ahead of the likes of Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti will make several changes in his starting lineup on the night – some forced and some out of choice. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos’ weekend clash.
1. Time to kick in the nitros
Real Madrid have been flawless this season and are the only club in the European top-flight to have not dropped a single point. While their start to the season has been nothing short of a fairytale, one wonders how long they can keep the magical streak going.
The month of October brings with it one of the most hectic schedules the club has seen in recent years. Over the next 30 days, Los Blancos play nine games across all competitions. In short, the equation boils down to a game every three days.
To come out on top in all nine games will require a superhuman effort from the Real Madrid players, but one knows well that the squad is capable of it. The team are in a strong headspace, and injecting the right amount of fuel at this point could propel their throttle and see them weather the storm.
A job well begun is half done, and Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his men can make a strong start to the month on Sunday night.
2. Coping without Modric
The FIFA International break has been cruel to clubs across the globe, with several key players returning injured and facing several weeks on the sidelines. The story for Real Madrid is no different.
Luka Modric played every minute of Croatia’s two friendlies in the last two weeks and even scored a goal in their 3-1 win over Austria. However, he suffered an injury to his hip and faces 8-10 days on the sidelines.
The veteran, at 37 years of age, has arguably been Real Madrid’s best player this season. In eight games, he has scored two goals and provided one assist for Los Blancos and continues to show the world why he is one of the best the game has seen.
Modric is expected to return for the Clasico in two weeks. However, one cannot help but wonder how Ancelotti compensates for such a big void.
It has been reported that the manager sees Dani Ceballos as the ideal man for the job. The 26-year-old impressed when given the start against Mallorca earlier this season, making four key passes and bagging one assist. Now, he could have his moment and a chance to prove his worth to the manager.
In Modric’s absence, Ceballos could start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. With Eduardo Camavinga quickly climbing up the pecking order, the 26-year-old must make the most of his chance on Sunday to secure a place in the coming games.
3. The return of the gladiator
After a slow start to the season, Karim Benzema bounced back with a brace against Espanyol on Matchday three. Just when it seemed like he had found his stride, however, he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out for close to three weeks.
While the team found alternate sources of goals in his absence, it was clear that Los Blancos lacked a dominant presence in the box in recent weeks. With Benzema’s recovery close to complete, all eyes will be on him to see if he can find his feet again.
In his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti confirmed that the French international would start on Sunday though it is unlikely that he will play all 90 minutes. Nevertheless, this comes as a big relief to Real Madrid, given that they have no natural replacement for the centre-forward.
The captain will look to make a statement on his return on Sunday and will likely be deployed alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.