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 3-1 Atletico Madrid: Player Ratings
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.