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Atlético Madrid vs Real Madrid, La Liga 2016-17: Match Preview

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It’s the first Madrid Derby since La Undécima!

Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid host Real Madrid for the last time at the Vicente Calderón Stadium, barring a Copa del Rey or Champions League draw. In an old Guide To Surviving El Derbí Madrileño, I cited Star Wars regarding the Calderón:

“What can you say about the Calderón that hasn't already been said of the Mos Eisley Cantina? Ben Kenobi said ‘You won't ever find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy’.”

It’s an embellishment of course, but Real’s Calderón-going experiences of late have been about as enjoyable as twisting it up with Greedo and company on Tattooine. Not since 2013 has Real Madrid won a league match at the Calderón.

Real Madrid are at the top of the table, but are missing many key players. Atlético are in fourth, six points adrift, and are coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss to La Real. If either team were to win, this match will be looked back upon as a turning point for their season.

Out for Real will be Toni Kroos, Pepe, Casemiro, and Álvaro Morata. The good news is that Luka Modrić looks fit, as is Karim Benzema, and oh yeah that guy Sergio Ramos, who knows a thing or two about Atléti.

Perhaps no loss is bigger for Los Blancos than Toni Kroos, who has been a paragon of consistency. The international break (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) might have actually done Zidane a favor by allowing him more time to ponder how he’ll adapt to life without Toni. Expect Isco and Mateo Kovačić to start in the midfield next to Luka.

Meanwhile at the Death Star Atlético HQ, the big injury question is whether Antoine Griezmann will be fit. He hurt his foot against Sweden over the break, and Atléti have been decidedly tight-lipped about whether they expect him to play.

The story of Atléti’s season has been inconsistency, and it hasn’t been a matter of their opponents’ quality skewing their results. They drew against Alavés and Leganes, only to beat Bayern and earned a draw at the Camp Nou. Saul and Gameiro have been embodiments of their team’s inconsistencies, and the loss of Augusto Fernández has certainly compromised some of Atléti’s defensive solidity. In short, it’ll be really interesting how Atléti perform in such a big match, and how Zidane goes about attacking what’s arguably the shakiest Atlético defense we’ve seen in recent years.

This will be a game between two teams who are proper terrified of losing. If Real lose, Atlético will have clawed their way right back into the title race, with Barcelona smiling ear to ear to the east. A Real win would put Atléti nine points back of the top spot, effectively sinking their title hopes.

It’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be loud. You’re probably going to be rather uncomfortable before kickoff. But it’s the Madrid Derby, and all we can do is marvel at the amount of pure physical hatred these two teams share for each other.

P.S. Make sure to check out MM’s Q&A with Into the Calderón

Kickoff: Saturday, 19th November 2016, at 2:45PM EST.

Projected lineups:

Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Filipe Luís, Diego Godín, Stefan Savic, Juanfran; Yannick Carrasco, Koke, Gabi, Saúl; Griezmann, Gameiro

Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Carvajal; Isco, Modrić, Kovačić; Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale

Staff predictions: