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Real Madrid Vs. Atlético Madrid, 2011 La Liga Preview: "Blancos" Face Second Straight Test In Madrid Derby

Look out Atleti...he's coming for you!
Look out Atleti...he's coming for you!

Things really aren't slowing down for Real Madrid: last week, los blancos traveled to Mestalla, the home of Valencia, to take on their rivals in their first big test of the year. They passed--barely: they lead los ché for most of the match, but the lead was never secure, as they looked set to cough up 0-2, and 1-3 margins throughout the evening. Only a lucky bounce off the crossbar in the last seconds of the match saved los blancos from a point-dropping draw.

Now, they host perennial under-achievers, cross-city rivals Atlético Madrid in the much hyped Madrid "derbi". As Lucas pointed out, in the past few years (twelve years, really), these matches have taken on a lot more hype than actual substance, as Madrid have cruised to victories (and a few draws) on every occasion. Last season, the two sides faced off four times, with a pretty ridiculous balance towards los vikingos--four victories in four chances for Mourinho's boys.

But, as the saying goes, nothing bad lasts forever (as Marca eloquently puts it, "no hay mal que cien años dure"), and Atleti is really due for a surprising performance. So Madrid's players and coaching staff will need to be on high alert heading into this clash.

While it is true that in sports things tend to turn around eventually (just ask the Chicago Cubs amirite?!), this particular matchup really doesn't suggest any surprises, as Radamel Falcao has officially been ruled out of Atleti's side, and they come in boasting a shockingly mediocre mid-table record.

But all of that would make an Atleti win that more shocking, right?

In all seriousness, los colchoneros are looking exceedingly poor this year, with a genuinely horrible defense, an offense that both needs time to gel, and also only has maybe three high-level players (Falcao, Reyes, and...Diego?). They badly miss Sergio "Kun" Aguero and Forlán, who they lost this summer.

But, it's a derby, where anything can happen! Atleti have stated that they're going to come out and play, to take the game to Real Madrid. This would be a good plan if that wasn't exactly the way Mourinho's Madrid thrives: Atleti might very easily attack with abandon, forgetting their spacing, defensive responsibilities, and general identity. And that's where Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo (who, incidentally, has yet to score on Atleti), Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuaín and Ángel di María (yeah, he's been ruled active for the match) will strike.

Atleti has a defense that's easier to navigate than...well...somewhere that's easy to navigate. They forget their marks, lose their shape, let guys in behind them--in short, a nightmare when you're playing the best counter-attacking team in the world.

By all accounts this is a matchup nightmare for Atleti, and should be a cakewalk for our boys in white. But when have you ever heard of matches--especially derby matches--following any sort of script?

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