We’ve been down this road before for over a decade. Atletico Madrid come in scorching hot into the Madrid derby, only to see their flames be put off by Real Madrid, who may be trailing their city rivals by 8 points on the La Liga table, but haven’t lost El Derbi madrileño in over a decade. The promise of a scoring duel between Cristiano Ronaldo and Falcao is just a bonus.
And it’s easy to see where most of the pressure is; easily on Real Madrid. They’re 11 points behind Barcelona, and the fans’ support of the team, especially Jose Mourinho, has seen better days. The feeling in the city that this time it’s different. Atletico have won 17 of their 20 matches this season in all competitions; four of six on the road in the league. They don’t have an 8 point lead over their city rivals for nothing.
Very few players on the Atletico squad the last time they didn’t lose, a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu during the 2008-2009 season. In recent years, all the added adrenaline has made Atletico lose their heads too quickly, and seeing them fight a lost cause, going down a goal or two very early. Falcao has said numerous times that a draw is going to be a disappointing result for his team, entering a stretch of games that will decide if they’re contenders or pretenders. Real Madrid, Barcelona not too long after. They’re in the title race now, but it seems everyone feels it’s a temporary thing.
Cristiano Ronaldo needs this game, maybe more than anyone else. He has a perfect record against Atletico Madrid, and produced a brilliant one last season, with Barcelona breathing down Real’s neck late in the season. Atletico were making noises of an upset, but the “sad one” nailed a hat trick, with each goal more beautiful than the other, giving Real a 4-1 win and a big stepping stone on their way to a league title. He has scored only once in six matches; it’s time he gets back on his horse.
A big key for Atletico will be dominating the midfield, or at least trying to disrupt Xabi Alonso’s passing and distribution. The job will be left for Arda Turan, who will probably be starting as the attacking midfielder behind Falcao, as Simeone will turn to the same lineup that featured in the 4-0 thrashing of Sevilla.
Prediction – As much as Atletico look fired up for this match, Real Madrid are almost perfect at home this season. There are problems, but if Atletico don’t play a little cautiously at least in the start, allowing Real Madrid to start feeling the pressure, this is going to be the same story from the past 13 years. Ronaldo has to return to scoring at some point.