An easy contender for one of the biggest European football matches at the early stages of the calendar is set to take place when cross-town rivals and heavyweights Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in the famous Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday night.
Atletico have failed to fire and are seventh in La Liga after an underwhelming start to the season while defending champions Real Madrid currently lead the standings with victories in all five of their games and 15 points of a possible 15 to make a major statement straightaway.
It has been yet another bitter and disappointing start to the La Liga season for Diego Simeone’s side and they received a wake up call in their UEFA Champions League 2022/23 group stage as well with a shock 2-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. They are currently third in Group B and need to make ground going forward if they wish to remain and progress to the knockout rounds of Europe’s premier continental competition.
Meanwhile, in Spain, Atletico have won three of their five matches while drawing and losing a game each to collect 10 points so far. This has left them in seventh place in the Liga standings, already trailing arch-rivals Real Madrid by five points and Catalonian giants Barcelona by three.
While they began the domestic campaign this season with a strong 3-0 victory over fellow Madrid side Getafe, they went on to concede two goals against Villarreal away from home and suffered a 2-0 loss. It was an early setback for the Madrid giants early in the campaign.
They then went on to pick up seven points from their next three fixtures, winning 1-0 against Valencia, drawing 1-1 with Real Sociedad before thumping Celta Vigo 4-1 in their most recent encounter last weekend.
Against Celta, Angel Correa, Rodrigo De Paul and Yannick Carrasco found the back of the net for Los Rojiblancos. However, Atletico’s resolve and grit will now be tested against the reigning champions Real Madrid under whose shadows they had spent much of their history before the arrival of Diego Simeone.
Atletico, who finished third in La Liga last season, beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the corresponding game between the two sides last time around, which proved to be their first success over their rivals in the league since February 2016.
Going into the Madrid derby, much of headlines will centre around Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr and the controversy surrounding his goal celebrations. The Brazilian’s dances and creative expressions on the pitch have been perceived to be offensive to the opposition players and fans and there were numerous attacks on him from people in administrative positions for his antics, with a certain racist angle.
It ended up striking a chord with fans and footballers in Brazil and almost everyone from Ronaldo, Neymar and Ronaldinho to Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, and Pele, ended up posting heartfelt messages in support of Vinicius and asking him to remain true to his flair and natural expression and not get bogged down by racist attacks.
The Madrid derby will be the perfect opportunity for the 22-year-old to rub salt into his already wounded detractors. With all eyes on him, Vinicius would fancy getting on the scoresheet and celebrating with a typical Samba.
Vinicius has been in great form this season and has chalked up five goals and three assists already. The same stands true for his side Real Madrid who are flying high in all competitions. After eight matches in three separate competitions so far this season, the defending Spanish and European champions are yet to drop a single point and have recorded a perfect start to their 2022/23 campaign.
They have won all of their opening five league fixtures against Almeria, Celta Vigo, Espanyol, Real Betis and Mallorca to take an early lead and sit on top of the table. Arch-rivals Barcelona are two points behind following their opening day draw against Rayo Vallecano and the La Liga title is expected to be a hotly contested duel between those two giants this season.
Real Madrid have also been quite successful in the early stages of the UEFA Champions League. They demolished Celtic 3-0 in their opening European fixture before beating RB Leipzig 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the midweek round of fixtures.
While Carlo Ancelotti’s side were far from their best on Wednesday night, goals from Fede Valverde and Marco Asensio in the final 10 minutes of the clash proved to be enough to secure all three points.
Real Madrid have, of course, made just two signings this summer but 100 million euro-midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni is already looking at home in the position vacated by Casemiro and has been hugely impressive. Although Antonio Rudiger, signed on a free transfer from Chelsea after the expiry of his contract hasn’t featured in the thick of the action yet, he could prove to be important over the course of the season as well.
The capital giants will have a busy October due to the season breaking in November for the 2022 World Cup, with games against Osasuna, Shakhtar Donetsk (twice in the Champions League), Getafe, Barcelona, Elche, Sevilla, RB Leipzig and Girona to come before the end of next month.
A win here in the Madrid derby and consolidating their hold on the top spot in La Liga would be the perfect psychological boost for Los Blancos heading into the international break.
ATM vs RMA, La Liga 2022/23
Date: 19th September, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Atletico Madrid La Liga form:
Atletico Madrid form (all competitions):
Real Madrid La Liga form:
Real Madrid form (all competitions):
Atletico Madrid wins: 57
Real Madrid wins: 113
Atletico Madrid Team News:
Atletico Madrid could be without the services of upto four players this weekend as Stefan Savic, Jose Gimenez, Thomas Lemar and Sergio Reguilon are all expected to miss out on the Madrid derby. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak, however, has been medically cleared and he is set to take up his usual position between the sticks for Atleti.
Meanwhile, Axel Witsel might have to drop deeper and play in a back three with Reinildo and Mario Hermoso in a back three following the absence of Savic and Gimenez. Simeone has a greater depth of options in midfield and in the frontline and he’s likely to persist with a midfield three of Koke, Rodrigo De Paul, and Marcos Llorente with Yannick Carrasco getting the nod as the left-sided wing-back.
Antonio Griezmann’s presence is expected off the bench at the 60th minute mark, as has been the case with almost all of Atleti’s fixtures this season as his future continues to hinge on the loan deal agreed between Barcelona and Atleti. However, Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata are expected to start as the front two for the home side.
Real Madrid Team News:
As far as Real Madrid are concerned, their star attacker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the contest after suffering a major thigh issue in the recent Champions League fixture with Celtic. Benzema missed matches against Mallorca and Leipzig and is unlikely to be risked here as well.
This could lead the way for Rodrygo to play as the false nine once again, with Valverde and Vinicius Junior making up the rest of the front three.
The majority of the team picks itself, with Tchouameni set to get the nod alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in midfield, and Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy to play as the full-backs.
Eder Militao has also missed Real Madrid’s last two games through injury, but the Brazilian is now back in full training and could ultimately get the nod over Rudiger to feature alongside David Alaba in the middle of the defence.
Alongside Benzema, Lucas Vazquez is the away side’s only confirmed absentee at this stage, with the Spaniard out until after the international break due to a thigh issue.
Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Reinildo, Witsel, Hermoso; Molina, Llorente, Koke, De Paul, Carrasco; Morata, Felix
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Tchouameni, Kroos; Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius
Atletico Madrid are expected to be without the services of some key players, especially in defence. However, the absence of Karim Benzema could prove to be a big deal for Real Madrid and it certainly makes them weaker upfront given how Benzema does more than just score goals and lay-up assists.
While it is difficult to back against Real Madrid given their outstanding run of form across all competitions, Atletico might have some bite in them to stun their neighbours, especially with the cheering on from the home supporters.
A tense and nervy affair is expected at the Wanda Metropolitano but points could very well be shared here.