In a season where El Clasico does not have the same energy as it used to, the derby between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid has quickly stepped up as Spain’s premium clash.
Atletico Madrid, indeed, are in the same situation as Barcelona on the table. Yet, there has been an element of passion whenever the two Madrid-based sides have faced off this season that cannot be described.
Come Sunday night, Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone face off once more, this time in La Liga. With the game set to take place at the Santiago Bernabeu, the men in white can claim to have an edge but will be put to a serious test regardless.
Real Madrid’s campaign may be close to perfect, but the management has all kinds of problems behind the scenes from personnel to fitness. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid.
There is really only one point that cannot be stressed enough ahead of the upcoming Madrid derby – Real Madrid’s crippled defence.
Indeed, the men in white have been La Liga’s best defence this season and by some distance. Their efforts to reach such stability despite facing an early ACL tear to Eder Militao is highly commendable and inspiring.
Yet, there is a limit to the number of blows a sinking ship can handle. Real Madrid’s situation was complicated when David Alaba faced the same injury as his Brazilian counterpart, and cracks then began to develop in the Merengues’ defence.
Los Blancos have conceded 12 goals in their last seven appearances across all competitions. Although they did maintain a clean sheet against Getafe, the situation heading into the derby is concerning.
Antonio Rudiger’s fitness is still uncertain after his thigh injury, and Ancelotti confirmed in his pre-match press conference that the German’s participation is under a cloud of doubt.
To compound his problems, Ancelotti will also be without Aurelien Tchouameni who is suspended and Fran Garcia who injured his ankle in training yesterday.
If Rudiger makes it in time to face Atletico Madrid later today, the manager can hope to start him alongside Nacho Fernandez with Ferland Mendy starting at left-back.
In case the German is unable to play tonight, however, the situation escalates. Mendy will be forced to play as a centre-back with the captain while Eduardo Camavinga will have to cover at left-back. Far from ideal for a decisive clash.
The season’s nemesis
Real Madrid have only lost two games all season, both to Atletico Madrid. Moreover, the face-off between the two neighbours this season has boasted of an added element of spice with all games being hard-fought and well-balanced.
When the two teams met earlier in the league at the Civitas Metropolitano, Los Rojiblancos put three goals past Real Madrid to hand them their only league defeat this season.
The subsequent meeting was in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. With ten minutes to go on the clock, Diego Simeone’s side were cruising to the finals but a Daniel Carvajal stunner levelled the score in the 85th minute.
It was only in extra time that Real Madrid managed to outplay their rivals and secure a berth in the finale.
Most recently, the script almost repeated itself. Facing off in the Copa del Rey, the two neighbours fought tooth and nail until the clash reached extra-time once more. This time, however, Real Madrid were outplayed and faced elimination from the competition.
It is thus safe to say that Atletico Madrid has been Real Madrid’s nemesis, and toughest opposition this season. The clash at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night, once again, will bring fireworks to the field.
Building on the gap
By this point, the title race in Spain has become a two-horse race. Real Madrid, as always, are in the conversation but they are joined by Girona at the top with very little separating them.
Heading into their 23rd game of the campaign, Real Madrid are on 57 points with just one defeat under their belt. Girona are close behind on 56 points, albeit with one extra game played.
The Catalans dropped points to Real Sociedad on Saturday, thus handing the men in white a solid chance to capitalise. Should Real Madrid win the derby tonight, they can claim to be four points ahead of their nearest competitors in what would be a sizeable advantage.
Moreover, the two leaders face off in the next matchday of La Liga, setting up for a grandstand clash. A win over Girona next week would all but seal the title by creating a seven-point gap.
The two upcoming games, thus, can virtually decide the team’s league title, but even a single defeat would leave the situation unclear.
Three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid | La Liga GW 27
Back in November, Real Madrid locked horns with Valencia for the first time in the 2023-24 campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu. Their outing on the night could not have gone better as they put five goals past a helpless opposition who completely deflated under pressure.
A Dani Carvajal goal followed by braces from Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo sealed the deal on the night, with Valencia’s compensation coming in the form of a late, and solitary goal, from Hugo Duro.
On Saturday night, the two teams lock horns again. This time, Los Che will have the home advantage and the single factor could well be responsible for the drastic change in resistance Los Blancos could face on the night. After all, the Mestalla is not an easy fortress to conquer.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid.
Real Madrid have been without Jude Bellingham for close to three weeks now. The talisman last featured for Los Blancos in their 4-0 drubbing of Girona, but an ankle injury forced him off the field and out of action.
The youngster was soon joined by Joselu on the sidelines after the Spanish veteran suffered an ankle injury in training last week. Tests revealed a poor prognosis, effectively ruling Joselu out for three weeks.
Bellingham’s return to fitness has been speculated for a while now, and Ancelotti confirmed the same in his pre-match press conference. Bellingham will be available for selection on the night and could well start against Valencia.
The second recovery from injury, of Joselu, is nothing short of miraculous. Having been diagnosed with bone edema, it is almost unbelievable that the veteran is back in action just seven days later.
With Ancelotti confirming the duo’s availability on the night, Real Madrid can breathe a sigh of relief. After all, they will be rejuvenated in the final third where they have had to depend on just Vinicius Jr, Brahim Diaz, and Rodrygo Goes. A massive boost.
Playing Valencia at the Mestalla can be hell. History is a testament that the historic stadium is a fortress for Los Che, one that even the best teams in the world often falter at.
The story for Real Madrid at Mestalla is no different. The men in white may have dominated most of Spain’s stadiums over the years, but their record at Valencia’s home is not particularly encouraging.
Real Madrid and Los Che have locked horns at Mestalla ten times since 2015. Of those, Los Blancos have emerged victors just three times. Valencia have won on a staggering five occasions while two ended in a draw.
More worryingly, the Merengues have conceded a total of 17 goals in the aforementioned ten outings while scoring 16 times. Their most recent meeting, last season, ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts which currently reflects as the one-goal lead over the nine years.
If reports in the media are to be believed, the weekend’s clash between the leaders and Ruben Baraja’s side is sold out. The Mestalla will be at full capacity for the first time this season, and it is clear that a frightening atmosphere awaits Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Conquering the Mestalla after failing last season will hand the Merengues a big boost not only on the table but in terms of confidence heading into the fag end of the season. A defeat, meanwhile, could see their lead at the top cut to three points.
Need for conviction
Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions. Their only defeats this season have come to Atletico Madrid, and it is clear that they are sailing with the tide of momentum.
Yet, there has been something strangely tight about the team’s recent games.
Right from the 1-0 win over Leipzig where the Germans dominated and deserved a win in the UEFA Champions League, Ancelotti’s men have appeared slightly out of tune.
The tight UCL win was followed by a 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga that can only be described as fair. After all, the hosts created as much, if not more threat than Real Madrid on the night.
Most recently, the Merengues salvaged a tight 1-0 win over Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu. The deadlock did not break until the 81st minute of the night, and only a Golazo from Luka Modric ensured that they took home three points.
Los Blancos, thus, are in dire need of a win with conviction. A showing like the performance they dished out against Girona will go a long way, especially with the second leg of the UCL Round of 16 just around the corner.
Will Bellingham’s return to the XI do the trick for Real Madrid in that sense? Or are they lacking something apart from the English protege’s brilliance? Only time will tell.