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Tale of two Madrids

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Diego Simeone’s side have not had the greatest title defence. They trail Real Madrid by 20 points and are in a dogfight for the fourth spot. The famed backline of Los Rojiblancos has already been breached 41 times, the most in the top eight. However, there have been some positives. Joao Felix has finally started to justify his immense potential. Atletico gave Manchester City hell in the second leg of their quarter-final.

Simeone knows that with four games left and Real Betis just three points behind, even a draw will be damaging. Atletico need to start the game well and prepare their defenders for an encore. If they can switch the play quickly and attack consistently, Real Madrid can be broken down. Therefore, Simeone will certainly have to go with a forward mindset in this match.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are enjoying a miracle run in the Champions League. Real Madrid have come back from the jaws of defeat against PSG, Chelsea, and Manchester City. They are into the final and face Liverpool once again. However, that conversation is for another day. Los Merengues will be looking to continue their marauding ways against an arch-nemesis. They have been utterly ruthless in La Liga with the most goals scored (73) and least conceded (29).

The former has largely been down their two-star names in attack. Karim Benzema is having a career-best season and is one of the favourites for the Ballon d’Or. Moreover, he is being supremely complemented by Vinicius Jr. with goals and assists. That partnership has been pivotal to Madrid’s success all season long and could come to the fore once again at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Team news

Atletico Madrid will be without the suspended Mario Hermoso. Thomas Lemar remains out with a hamstring injury.

PROBABLE LINE-UP: Oblak; Vrsaljko, Gimenez, Savic, Carrasco; Llorente, Kondogbia, Koke; Correa, Felix, Griezmann

Ancelotti could look to rest a few starters who have had to endure heavy minutes in recent matches.

PROBALE LINE-UP: Courtois; Vasquez; Nacho, Militao, Marcelo; Valverde, Casemiro, Ceballos; Asensio, Benzema, Rodrygo

Gamechangers

Atletico have not had many things to cheer about in this campaign. One of the bright spots has been the form of Angel Correa. He has netted 11 times already in his best-ever scoring season in the league. Additionally, Correa has also set up five goals. The striker has been an ever-present with Atletico since signing and could prove to be the difference against Real Madrid. Real’s defence can be breached as lesser teams have shown in the past.

Atletico are much stronger than some of the opposition and have the quality to disrupt the champions’ victory parade. Correa will be looking to link up effectively with Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann in attack. Moreover, Koke can also supply superb balls from the midfield for Correa to chase. His versatility will also come in handy in dragging the defenders around to create spaces behind.

If Carlo Ancelotti does look to rest one of Vinicius Jr. or Benzema, then it will be Rodrygo as the main scoring threat. The young Brazilian is in the midst of a purple patch with six goals and an assist in his last six matches across all competitions. Rodrygo has shown a calm head mixed with extreme confidence in his talent.

Madrid have not been shy about throwing Rodrygo during key moments. Atletico’s defence will certainly be tested by Rodrygo’s pace and quick movement. The centre-backs are not the most agile and will not fancy a foot chase. If Rodrygo gets by the backline or even draws them out of position, Real’s midfielders will have the chance to step forward.

Predictions

The form book favours the away side. Real Madrid have been excellent in Spain. Atletico Madrid will know a win will be a statement of intent as they aim to reach the Champions League. FootTheBall predicts a 2-1 win for Los Blancos. 

Feature image courtesy: Managing Madrid

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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