The Madrid derby returns for the second time in just over a week, as Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid face each other in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night.
The two rivals met in the semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup in Riyadh last week, where Real Madrid came out on top with a thrilling 5-3 win after extra time. Carlo Ancelotti’s side went on to lift the trophy with a convincing 4-1 victory over Barcelona in the final, extending their unbeaten run to 21 games in all competitions.
Just one loss all season pic.twitter.com/rNQw9WrgQg— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) January 18, 2024
Real Madrid are also the defending champions of the Copa del Rey, having won the tournament last season with a 2-1 win over Osasuna in the final. They started their title defence with a 3-1 win over third-tier Arandina in the last 32, with goals from Joselu, Brahim Diaz, and Rodrygo.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have not won the Copa del Rey since 2013, when they beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the final at the Santiago Bernabeu. They have been knocked out in the last 16 in two of the last three editions. They reached this stage with a 3-1 win over Lugo, a third-tier team, with a brace from Memphis Depay and a goal from Angel Correa.
Diego Simeone’s side have been inconsistent this season, as they are fifth in La Liga, 11 points behind leaders Girona with a game in hand. They will be hoping to bounce back from their Super Cup defeat and get revenge on their city rivals.
Thomas Lemar is still ruled out with injury, but Atletico have some good news as Pablo Barrios is back and training normally after missing a couple training sessions this week due to illness. Meanwhile, Memphis Depay is back from injury, and Angel Correa, despite having his home robbed this week, is expected to be in the squad.
Simeone is expected to stick to his 3-5-2 formation, with Jan Oblak in goal and Axel Witsel, Jose Maria Gimenez and Mario Hermoso as the three centre-backs (it is reported that Witsel will replace Savic, who struggled against Real Madrid last week). Nahuel Molina, meanwhile, may start at right wing-back in place of Marcos Llorente.
Real Madrid have a relatively fit squad, with only Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao, David Alaba, and Lucas Vazquez out with injuries. Ancelotti has rotated his players in the Copa del Rey, and he could do the same again, though not to the same extent as he did against Arandina.
Ancelotti could opt to start Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric — both of whom did not start against Barcelona in the SuperCopa final.
Andriy Lunin, as Carlo Ancelotti confirmed in the pre-game press conference, will start in goal after being benched in favour of Kepa in last week’s game against Atletico.
The Madrid derby is always a high-intensity and unpredictable affair, and this one could be no different. Both teams have quality and experience in their ranks, and they will be motivated to progress to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Real Madrid have the edge in terms of form and confidence, as they have been unbeatable in recent months. They also have the psychological advantage, as they have a near 100% record against Simeone’s Atletico in knockout competitions. They have the firepower and the creativity to hurt Atletico Madrid’s defence, which has not been as solid as in previous seasons.
Atletico Madrid, however, will not give up easily. The Metropolitano is one of the toughest away stadiums in Europe, and Atletico are the only team who have beaten Real Madrid this season. Add to that, they have had over one week’s rest since the last Derby, and both Antoine Griezmann and Alvaro Morata are in hot form up front.
It could be a close and exciting game, with both teams scoring and creating chances. However, Real Madrid have the slight edge, as they have more depth and quality in their squad. They could seal the win with a late goal, as they have done so often in the past.
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Real Madrid.