The Madrid derby: the hammer versus the anvil
The top scorers in LaLiga welcomes the team with the least goals conceded (KO 16:00 CET). Cristiano has 22 goals to his name; one more than the five up front for Atlético combined.
The derby in pursuit of the title has been somewhat reduced in stature, thanks to the problems Madrid have had on their travels and the deriliction of duties in front of goal of Atlético. But, even with Barça on another planet, the game still captures our interest. And this is thanks to Simeone because since his arrival the distance between the two teams has moved from infinite to zero. Atlético, in fact, have moved ahead and have lost only one of the nine duels since the European final in Lisbon. On Thursday, Guti was quoted as saying that during his time at Madrid these matches were considered easy. Through means of a compliment he was trying to get a nibble to bother 'the neighbour'.
The duvet of completeness doesn't cover either of them, though, with Madrid's feet poking out the bottom and Atlético's head at the top. Simeone's troops must be frustrated with their dearth of goals. The data is overwhelming. They have failed to score in four of their last eight games, have only found the back of the net 35 times this season, they haven't managed three goals in a single game, and their top five marksmen (Torres, Griezmann, Correa, Vietto and the departed Jackson) have notched up 21 in total. Cristiano has 22. Griezmann hasn't scored in the league since 17 January but Simeone is waiting for things to improve, "I'm number one when it comes to patience," he said in the pre-game press conference. However, at the back they are beyond reproach with only 11 goals conceded to date which is less than half that of their dear neighbours (24). For this reason, LaLiga has gone from Madrid's reach, the top scorers of the campaign. The balanced team theory that has been recited for months has been proven a fraud.
Madrid have exaggerated their artillery and neglected their rearguard. This includes the time under Zidane. In any case, with the Frenchman at the helm they have scored 20 goals in just four games at the Bernabeu, but the argument of goals is then lost on their travels. Cristiano has seven, Benzema, who returns after being out for Malaga, has five. James will complete the frontline with Kovacic and Jesse awaiting their turns.
No Marcelo. The Brazilian left-back is out injured and there is no perfect replacement.Nacho or Carvajal could change sides or make way for Danilo but Madrid have lost the engine on the left. Atlético are also hurting at the loss of Carrasco, who has been the joy of the team until his injury. So their midfield will be the solid four of Saúl, Gabi, Koke and Augusto with Torres and Griezmann galloping ahead. Behind them all the defense will look to continue its tried and tested formula for limiting Cristiano's goal haul. The Portugese star has only two from the last nine derbies. Atlético will arrive at the Bernabeu just 57 hours after landing in Barajas from their trip to Holland. Their local opponent will be more rested but the demands are the same. Because whoever loses this match will not only lose sight of Barça's shadow but will have Villarreal coming hot on their heels.