The Madrileño derby is upon us and now we truly commence the start of a pivotal month. The rivalry is rife with news of Florentino Pérez possibly paying the buy-out clause for Atlético’s young star, Theo Hernández (on loan at Alavés), this summer. Such an act from Florentino would end the gentleman’s agreement between both clubs and the rumors alone have already heightened tensions. Simeone’s side will be motivated by vengeance as they have lost their last two outings against their cross-town neighbors. A win from Real Madrid would inflict serious damage on Colchoneros psyche, they would make it three wins out of their last three games against their bitter rivals.
Zidane’s men have warmed their engine with two quick wins since the international break, defeating Alavés 3-0 at the Bernabéu, then followed by a trip to the Estadio Municipal de Butarque, where a much-changed side got the job done with a convincing 4-2 win. Real Madrid have now won six consecutive games heading into Saturdays match and maintain a 2-point lead over 2nd place Barcelona, with a game in-hand. There are no new injury concerns for Zidane, as Raphael Varane remains the only player currently side-lined. With most of the starting 11 rested mid-week, fresh-legs could turn out to be a decisive factor in the final stages of the match on Saturday, as Simeone played his full strength side in their mid-week 1-0 win against Real Sociedad.
Atlético Madrid come into this match in their best form of the season. They have won their last five La Liga games and are undefeated in their last seven games. Their away form has been superb, they have not lost a game away from home since the start of 2017. One of the crucial factors behind Atléti’s change in form has been a slight tactical tweak. Koke has reverted back to the left flank and Saul to the middle, rather than the reverse, which has given Atlético’s midfield that extra solidity and has those two key players producing their best form. They will be looking to prove they are a side to fear in Europe as well as tighten their grip on the 3rd place position with a win at the Santiago Bernabéu.
When these two sides met earlier this season at the Calderón, Madrid came out 3-0 winners. Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick and Isco drew plaudits for his master class performance within the #10 role. Zidane had won the tactical battle in November and it will be interesting to see what, if any, tweaks will be made to the system in preparation for Atlético. Will Zidane stick with the “Once de Gala” or will Isco find his way into the starting line-up given his recent form? Players like Isco and Marcelo have been crucial in breaking down a stalwart Atlético defense, but Zidane may reserve Isco’s talents until the second half to go with his tried and trusted line-up. With only 9 La Liga games remaining and crucial Champions League fixtures against Bayern on the horizon, it is now or never for the boys in white. The tests begin now and questions will be answered—Will Zidane reap the benefits of his preseason preparation? Will the season long rotations pay off? Will the reserves with recent stellar performances—Morata, Asensio, Kovačić—have a role to play? Most importantly, Will Madrid take a crucial step towards the La Liga title or will they fall as they approach the final hurdle? The narratives are plentiful as the big showdown arrives on Saturday, it will not be a match to miss.
How to watch the Madrid Derby
Kick-off time: 16:15 CET, 10:15am EST.
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2 (Ronaldo, Benzema)-1 Atletico de Madrid (Koke)
Available TV: BeIN Sports (USA), BeIN La Liga (Spain).
Available streaming: BeIN Sports Connect (USA), Fubo.TV (EVERY Real Madrid game with a high-quality and legal stream, click here to sign up and benefit from a huge offer for new members and Managing Madrid readers).
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.