NIVEA MEN Football Insight: Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
In less than a week, there’s a different aura at Real Madrid, who ended their underwhelming run in La Liga last weekend, before progressing to the Champions League knockout stages in midweek, and must now prepare for a weekend showdown with Atletico Madrid.
After winning just one in five games across all competitions, Los Merengues dispatched Sevilla 1-0 last weekend, with Vinicius Junior proving influential as Yassine Bono’s own goal provided some much-needed respite.
It wasn’t pretty, but it at least prompted some optimism that Zinedine Zidane’s side could turn the tide.
However, it’s not too far-fetched to say that the midweek meeting with Borussia Monchengladbach was one of the biggest matches in the club’s recent history.
Missing out on the UCL knockout stages—Europa League or no Europa League—would simply not be acceptable for a club of Real’s size, scale and stature.
Ultimately, delivering another performance of immense character and personality, Real secured a 2-0 victory, ultimately sending both the Spaniards and Gladbach through to the next round, while Internazionale and Shakhtar Donetsk—who played out a 0-0 draw—both dropped out of the competition.
Karim Benzema was the hero on the day, scoring two first-half goals—in the ninth and 31st minutes—to ensure Real sidestepped a significant banana skin. If he plays against Atletico, he would break the record for the foreign player with the most appearances for the Spanish giants in all competitions.
However, he doesn’t have the best record against Atletico, having scored just once in 10 home games against Real’s city rivals.
It’s the lowest tally he’s registered against any single opponent he’s played against in the Spanish top flight more than seven times.
It was a commanding display by Zidane’s side; Rodrygo was inspired alongside Benzema, a midfield of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos was combative and proactive, while Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy provided thrust from full-back.
A major boost for Real came in the form of Sergio Ramos, who ended his injury absence by taking his place in the heart of the defence alongside Raphael Varane.
The Blancos ’ backline were a much transformed prospect, with Ramos exuding confidence and composure while neutralising the likes of Breel Embolo and Marcus Thuram.
The challenges come thick and fast for Real, who must now prepare to face city rivals Atletico this weekend.
Los Rojiblancos also come into this one on the back of a strong performance, having dispatched Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 on Wednesday to progress to the knockouts.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Mario Hermoso were the heroes for the Spanish giants, who currently lead the table after 10 league games.
Despite playing two games fewer than second-placed Real Sociedad, Atletico are one point ahead of their nearest rivals, and are six points ahead of Real, who have played one game more than Diego Simeone’s side.
With both of their nearest rivals stuttering in recent weeks—Barcelona have lost three of their last six—Atletico will surely be fancying their chances of maintaining a sustained title challenge.
However, Real hold the advantage between the two old rivals, having won 24 and lost 10 of the last 47 head-to-head meetings between the pair. Atleti are without a win in their last eight Liga outings against Real, but have lost just one of their last seven matches away at the Bernabeu.
Despite their recent improvement, Real have been vulnerable at home recently, losing two of their last three home games, having gone unbeaten in their previous 20 appearances.
While Ramos returns to the Real backline, and while Dani Carvajal is available again, Zidane is still contending with various key absences ahead of the clash.
Eden Hazard remains absent after suffering another recent injury setback, while Luka Jovic and Martin Odegaard are also absent for the reigning Spanish champions.
Simeone also has injury headaches of his own, with Diego Costa set to miss out, Jose Gimenez also absent and Manu Sanchez sidelined due to injury.
Atletico’s key dangerman will likely be Luis Suarez, who has nine goals in 11 Liga outings against Real, although Zidane will also need to find a way to neutralise rampaging right-back Kieran Trippier.
Only Sevilla’s Jesus Navas has registered more assists than the former Tottenham Hotspur man’s seven since the start of last season.