Real Madrid’s official Twitter account broke our backs today with some awful news. Madridistas were already moping corpses to begin with, but with every passing injury, FIFA twists the knife one more rotation deep into the wounds. Shame on them.
RT to sign this petition letter I wrote to FIFA. pic.twitter.com/rIfiXDyBEA— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) November 16, 2016
Already, Zidane has been dealt with heavy blows on the medical front as he conjures up make-shift lineups game after game. Just as Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos returned from injury, the club lost Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata. The panic is only heightened due to the hazy status of Karim Benzema and Casemiro - both of whom would give the team a huge boost were they to return for Saturday’s Madrid derby. They would be rushed, to be sure, and Zidane has a lot of choices to make here. To hasten the players currently in the medical bay could lead to disaster come Spring, and if Benzema can’t start this weekend, Zidane will have to bring in a raw Mariano or play with no pure striker at all.
Over the next few days, we’ll break down some tactical ideas to tide you over until Saturday, as well as channel any news to you as it comes. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a live mailbag tomorrow on our Facebook page to answer some pre-derby questions, and you should all make sure to catch the latest podcast I recorded with Bozz this week.
After the match, we’ll also be recording a post-game show here with Gabe, Jeremy Beren of Into The Calderon, and myself. And, if that’s not enough, you’re in luck - I’ll also be on the enemy’s Colchonero Chat on Friday for more pre-game trash-talk.
Kiyan: What's good frienemy? They keep telling us you're the best team in the world, but you're going through your worst ever start in La Liga under Simeone. What gives?
Robbie: I wish I knew the answer to that. After three of Atletico's Champions League games, they have played away to Valencia, Sevilla and Real Sociedad. That's far from ideal given how hard Simeone requires his players to work. I also think that when it is all said and done this year, more of the top teams will have dropped points as none of the top four are really clicking and there seems to be more parity in the league, that will hopefully continue for a long time to come.
Kiyan: I'm a big endorser of your defence. In my eyes, the pure organizational structure of it in big games goes down in history as one of the best ever. This season, your attack is terrifying too. Yannick Carrasco has made a leap from 'tricky player to deal with' to 'Super Saiyan'. Besides Carrasco and, to an extent, the addition of Gameiro, what has contributed to the offensive surge?
Robbie: The answer is multivariate. You have our full-backs, who offer width and excellent technical ability out wide and you have Gameiro, who is full of energy and quite unpredictable compared to a traditional number nine. But, I think the most important thing is Koke's emergence as the bona-fide leader of the team. In order to transform or evolve into a more possession-based, attacking team, you need a player like Modric, Kroos, Iniesta or Busquets and I think Koke takes all of those four players' best skills and shows them to Atletico fans on a weekly basis. He does everything from that pivot position and facilitates most of the good things that happen when Atletico play.
Kiyan: By the way, congratulations for scoring 7 goals against La Liga's punching bag. Big deal.
Robbie: LOL! We thought we had La Liga wrapped up at that point... then Sevilla and Real Sociedad happened!
Kiyan: Rate Kevin Gameiro so far. I was a huge fan of him last season, and thought in many ways he was a player that would complete your starting line-up given Simeone didn't seem to find quite the right fit there since Diego Costa left. Are you surprised he hasn't been more prolific?
Robbie: I know every manager needs certain players to suit their style but I think this will remain a stick to beat Simeone with as he continues in his management career. He is obviously excellent at what he does but his inability to find a Diego Costa replacement has been frustrating. I am not sure what Gameiro was supposed to achieve, and he has been really good - just to get that straight - but it can be frustrating to not know what kind of Atletico will show up on any given game-day and a lot of that has to do with mismatches and Atletico's attack.
Kiyan: How much of a relief is it for you that Toni Kroos is out of Real Madrid's squad? If Casemiro doesn't get rushed back, he'll miss the derby too, completely depleting Real Madrid's resources in the DM department. And don't give me the 'I want all players to be healthy blah blah blah' answer. You're licking your lips, aren't you? Naughty boy.
Robbie: If I'm being honest, I don't really care who plays. It probably suits us better that Kroos is out but I am not sure I can see Atletico losing this game. It's the last one in the Calderon, Atletico can not lose, I think Zidane is in over his head and too many of your better players are suffering difficult patches of form.
Kiyan: I've never attended the Derby, though I plan to later this season. But I went to Calderon for last year's Derby just to see the pre-game atmosphere. It's bonkers, and just straight up wild. Are you going to be partaking in any of that fun, or will you be separating yourself as a professional journalist for this one?
Robbie: By the time I finish writing my Atletico 3-0 Real Madrid match report, most of the bars will be empty. If Atletico win, I will most likely lift a beer to them but probably not until I get home later that night.
Kiyan: Unrelated, but what is it like being a Rayo Vallecano season ticket holder?
Robbie: It's really cool. I love going to the bar across the road and chatting with the fans. There is a real sense of community there and a carnival atmosphere. If I don't have a beer on Sunday after the Derby, I will have one after the Rayo game on the Sunday. They play at home to Huesca and I will be at that as a fan!
Kiyan: Prediction for this weekend?
Robbie: 3-1 Atletico Madrid. As I said, they simply can't lose and even a draw won't suffice despite the fact that it is so early in the season. The last Derbi in the Calderon, coming off two losses and with Real in a sort of weird place themselves, I fully expect an Atletico Madrid win!