Waiting for their first win in the Madrid derby in the new millennium, Atletico Madrid have been given the news that Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest scourges they’ve faced over the last few years, isn’t going to play, giving them a fantastic opportunity to end their long drought against Real Madrid.
In terms of the actual table, this is a match for the second place. The Real Madrid goal difference is much better, which means that even if Atletico do get the win, that second place is still quite difficult to achieve (not to mention a Barcelona match left to play as well), but everyone knows it’s much bigger than that, with the win from 1999 looking like a too distant memory.
Real Madrid will play with Ronaldo since a cup match vs Alcoyano on November (a 3-0 win), but it might not be the best time to try and prove this is more than a one-man team. With the bruises from the 1-4 defeat against Dortmund still quite fresh, and trying to find balance between keeping a certain power balance with a certain city rivals while hoping not too tire too many players out before the Dortmund second leg is Mourinho’s most difficult question, unless he’s already thinking about what comes after this current job.
Real Madrid haven’t been resting players in the same amount as Barcelona have in the past few weeks, usually using more first team players in the lineup than you might expect from a team that won’t finish higher than second, lower than third and has a Champions League match to worry about. BUt because of more injuries, Mourinho’s chances of using younger players and substitutes is limited, not to mention no one wants to give up on such a prestigious affair and end the streak that means more than just pure numbers.
For Atletico, the feeling is that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you pay close attention, it’s always a once in a lifetime opportunity to make amends on so many derby disappointments that have been coming non-stop over the last 14 years. Not having Cristiano Ronaldo to face them, a player who scored a painful hat trick last season and was once again the difference in the first match between the two sides earlier this season is an unexpected bonus.
Atletico were in a bit of a slowing down period in early March, allowing Real Madrid to catch up with them and displace them at second place. Arda Turan is the only player unavailable to the home side, hoping that this match will be remembered for more than Diego Costa trying to pick a fight with Sergio Ramos and others. Boosted by two wins over Granada and in Sevilla, they might be reaching the derby in perfect timing.
Predictions – Real Madrid without Ronaldo and without enough motivation to win this one aren’t going to win this. The question is are shadows of the past going to ruin it for Atletico Madrid. Probably not. If they can’t win this time, who knows when the next one will actually be.