NewslettersSign inAPP
spainSPAINargentinaARGENTINAchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOperuPERUlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA

Atlético Madrid - Real Madrid

Luis Suarez aiming to fire Atleti to victory over Zidane's old enemy

Dismissed by Barcelona as past his best, Luis Suárez has responded by leading Atlético Madrid's title charge and will look to put the last derby to bed.

Update:
Luis Suarez aiming to fire Atleti to victory over Zidane's old enemy
Getty Images

The last derby was a rare off-day for Atlético Madrid – and for Luis Suárez. On a run of seven wins in a row and two goals conceded, with no LaLiga defeats all season, Diego Simeone's men were second best in a 2-0 defeat last December. As for Suárez, his 73 minutes on the pitch yielded a single, wayward shot.

Still, that result turned out to be an aberration. Three months on, Atleti head into Sunday's game at the Wanda Metropolitano with a five-point lead over Real Madrid and Barca at the top of the table, and with a game in hand. Suárez, meanwhile, has scored 11 of his 16 LaLiga goals this term since that chastening day at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Suárez's form for Atleti has made a complete mockery of Barca's decision to cast him aside last year, the suggestion the striker was "too old" to be relied upon looking more foolish by the week as he spearheads their charge for a first league title since 2014.

Indeed, given his record against Madrid and the state of the league table, this weekend could be the moment Suárez tips the balance of the title race inexorably in Atletico's favour.

Suárez still has a point to prove... to Barcelona

It wasn't simply being told to leave by Barça that left Suárez so incensed; it was being made to feel he was no longer good enough for "a great team".

"That's what I did not like," he told France Football. "If I hadn't done anything at a club like Barça for three or four seasons, I would have understood.

"But, every year at Barça, I scored more than 20 goals per season. I have always had good statistics, just behind Leo [Messi]."

So he is again. Suárez's 16 goals in 21 league games this term puts him second in the top-scorer standings, three behind Messi. Add in assists, and only his old team-mate (23) has had more direct goal involvements than Suárez (18) in LaLiga this season.

While Suárez is no longer as explosive as he was at Liverpool and in his earlier Barça years, he has lost little of his ruthlessness. Discounting the two penalties he has converted this term, Suarez has scored 14 times from an expected goals value of just 9.6. That differential of 4.4 is the biggest in the division, save for that of 'El Comandante', Levante's 33-year-old star striker Jose Luis Morales (5.0).

It follows that Suárez has a shot conversion rate (including blocked shots) of 23.9, the fourth-highest figure for any LaLiga player with at least 10 goals this season, the best being Roger Marti with 31.3.

The Uruguayan also boasts a big chance conversion rate of 63.2 per cent, having scored 12 out of 19 this term. No player to have scored from at least 10 big chances can match that success rate. That cutting edge in a team that has conceded just 16 league goals in 24 matches is a potent combination.

Suárez out to stop Atleti's derby dip

Atleti followed December's derby defeat by winning 10 of their next 12 games, the only slip-ups being a Copa del Rey shock at Cornella and a 2-2 home draw with Celta Vigo on February 8 (in which Suárez scored twice).

However, including that result, they have won only twice in their past five league matches, a run that has emboldened Barça and Madrid's title hopes and left fans wondering whether 'Hay Liga' after all.

A dip in form before a derby is never positive, but Atleti in particular need no extra pessimism. They have not won any of the most recent nine league meetings with Madrid, their longest run without a victory under Diego Simeone, and they have not even scored in the previous three. Only once in their history have they gone four league derbies without a goal.

Madrid are also the only team to play a league match at the Wanda Metropolitano without ever losing (one win, two draws), with Simeone having won only 12.5 per cent of league games against opposite number Zinedine Zidane, his worst return against any coach from at least four meetings.

But Suárez has happy memories of facing Los Blancos. Although he's gone two games without scoring against them, his goal record overall reads nine scored in 12 league appearances versus Madrid, the most of any player since his first season in Spain in 2014-15.

Rules

To be able to comment you must be registered and logged in. Forgot password?