In their first meeting since the Champions League final, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will face off at the Calderon on Saturday in the best city derby in Europe. Sorry, Manchester, you’ve got some catching up to do. The white half of Madrid won the aforementioned final, the second time they’ve beaten Atletico in such a game in three years. Both were agonisingly close.
Agonising is the key word. Losing like that twice left Diego Simeone contemplating his future with the club. They convinced him to stay but later shortened his contract, acknowledging that the end of their great journey together was in sight. They’ve recovered from a wobble at the start of the season to play as a slightly reinvented Atletico. There’s a greater focus on attacking.
This tactical shift has meant that their defensive solidity has been somewhat compromised. Although they’ve only conceded eight goals in eleven La Liga games, fingers are being pointed at Koke for failing to provide defensive cover in his deeper role. This was something that even Gabi joked about at a recent awards gala. He said: “Koke is playing in the middle. He’s doing it well but perhaps when it comes to defending we’re more fragile. We need to go back to being a strong team at the back with everyone working together.” Simeone wasn’t pleased with Gabi.
We can see Koke silencing his critics by putting in a stormer against Real, who have struggled at the Calderon in recent seasons. Zinedine Zidane will be missing Alvaro Morata and Toni Kroos, who fractured his metatarsal. The German midfielder will be out of action until next year.
Atletico Madrid XI: Oblak, Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Luis, Carrasco, Koke, Gabi, Saul, Gameiro, Griezmann
Real Madrid XI: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Modric, Isco, Kovacic, Ronaldo, Bale, Vazquez