Real Madrid is fresh off a spectacular 2-0 win over Inter in midweek. They’ll now shift their focus to the league with the coveted Champions League set to resume post-Christmas. Los Blancos are on a roll, they have opened up a comfortable eight points’ gap on the summit of the standings and have a realistic chance of adding to the existing lead by getting past cross-town rivals, Atletico Madrid.
Los Rojiblancos are coming into this game after a shock loss to Mallorca in their own backyard, the Wanda. They, however, improved against FC Porto in the mid-week Champions League fixture. But, they did so only in the second half. To be fair to the Portuguese club, they were having more dangerous moves in the first half with Atletico finding it especially hard to contain Mehdi Taremi.
Another big point of discussion before moving into the weekend’s Derbi was the availability of Karim Benzema. But, it does seem like Real Madrid’s talisman will be available to start against Atletico having received just a strain in the game against Real Sociedad. He was our obvious choice for starting the game in that crucial CF position.
Atletico on the other hand is without their main force in front of goal, Luis Suarez. Real Madrid would have had some unsettled business with the Uruguayan who scored the league-winning goal on last season’s last Matchday. But, Los Blancos will have to wait for another meeting as the Uruguayan stays ruled out. Los Rojiblancos will also be without Kieran Trippier and Stefan Savic. Jose Maria Gimenez although doubtful is expected to be ready for the big game. This means Diego Simeone could return to his preferred three-CB system.
Never mind the injuries, Los Blancos are in a hot streak of form and I believe them to continue in the same way. Here are three reasons why Real Madrid will emerge victorious against Atletico Madrid in the weekend’s Madrid Derby.
1. Real Madrid’s fullbacks are in fine form
If you have happened to watch Los Rojiblancos in action this season, you should have noticed how much they rely on their play over the wings. They have great players like Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente to pilot that role. However, in the weekend’s fixture, they’d be paired against a set of players who have been in tremendous form, Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal.
Dani Carvajal especially is quietly returning to his world-class best. He dropped another masterclass against Inter in the mid-week and there’s no doubt that he could come out the winner against Yannick Carrasco on the right-hand side of Real Madrid’s half.
And Ferland Mendy always manages to get the job done and given that El Derbi this season will probably be the most decisive game in La Liga, fans would expect the Frenchman to step up. Disrupting Atletico’s wider play would be key and I am backing our fullbacks to win this battle.
2. Atletico Madrid have been vulnerable to counters
The second reason why I think Real Madrid will get better of their red and white neighbors is pretty straightforward, they have been exposed awkwardly during counters. One doesn’t need to venture too far, just watch how Mehdi Taremi troubled their central defense in the first half of the game in midweek and take a look at Takefusa Kubo’s winner for Mallorca in the previous Matchday of La Liga.
And, this vulnerability could be exploited to the fullest by Los Blancos. Real Madrid under Ancelotti has always started with a lower share of possession that eventually evens out by the end, meaning Real Madrid is more focused on defending diligently and breaking on counters. They have taken their chances very well, they are outscoring their xG after all. As Real Madrid’s last few games have gone, it is sure that they will venture for chances on the break and that could be Real’s best shot at scoring.
3. Real Madrid’s young Brazilian X-Factors
I am backing two specific Real Madrid players to have standout performances and seal this victory. In the end, I believe Eder Militao and Vinicius Junior will be big reasons why Real will pick up another full bag of points in the league. And, they’d have very specific things to do as well.
Firstly, it would be a return for Karim Benzema. Although the Frenchman always puts his best foot forward for the matches that matter, Vini might just have to work a little harder in this one. We remember how well Vini did to put things on the plate for Benzema from the spell in which he was playing through his fatigue. And, for a crucial game as such, building a great partnership with the team’s most experienced attacker will be important. Vini will be expected to play his usual game as he did against FC Barcelona even if he was without a direct goal-involvement he indeed was the X-factor in that game.
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And, the other Brazilian prodigy who is well on his way towards becoming the world’s best will have some crucial defending to do. Even if Luis Suarez is ruled out of the game, Atletico has some impressive finishers like Matheus Cunha and Antoine Griezmann in their ranks. Going by his impressive form and given his mentality of stepping up in big games, I think there’s a third consecutive masterclass loading.