It’s a top-of-the-table clash in La Liga this weekend, as fierce neighbours Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid collide in a massive fixture.
Real are currently level on points with Barcelona and five behind leaders Atletico, so there’s little doubt that this match could have massive consequences for the title race as a whole.
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Victory for Los Merengues could change the complexion of the run-in, while the hosts will be desperate to put further ground between themselves and their nearest challengers.
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid: Team news
Real Madrid will have to find solutions for several injury concerns heading into this one.
Dani Carvajal was laid low with a hamstring problem—again—during the recent match and faces another spell on the sidelines, while Sergio Ramos remains absent after undergoing knee surgery.
Real’s talismanic skipper isn’t expected back until April.
Los Merengues will hope that Karim Benzema is fit to return after missing the last three games with an ankle problem.
He’s been pencilled in to return against Atletico, and Zinedine Zidane certainly needs him. Will the French striker be risked if he’s not 100 percent?
Eden Hazard—a regular feature in the treatment room—could return following his latest muscle injury (although a spot on the bench is more likely) while Eder Militao is unlikely to be risked as he continues his comeback from an adductor problem.
For Atletico, Kieran Trippier remains absent due to suspension, while Yannick Carrasco and Jose Maria Gimenez have also recently missed fixtures due to injuries.
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid: Key facts & stats
Real Madrid have comfortably had the better of the last 20 derbies between the two sides, winning 10 (50 percent), with Atletico winning just four during that period.
In the last fixture between the two—as recently as December— Los Merengues extended their fine form with a 2-0 victory following Casemiro’s opener and an own goal from Jan Oblak.
They failed to win the last time they were away at Atletico, however, with the two domestic giants playing out a 0-0 draw.
You have to go back to the summer of 2019—and that unforgettable 7-3 Atleti victory—to find the last time that the Rojiblancos defeated their near neighbours.
They’ll be confident of another triumph, however, with Real struggling in their last league outing—a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid: Prediction
A lot may depend on whether or not Benzema can be restored to Zidane’s starting XI and whether or not the Frenchman is at his best.
If he can put his injury problems behind him—the 12-goal frontman remains Real’s key attacking threat, and has the potential to change the contest.
Benzema, if on song, has the capacity to expose the vulnerabilities Atletico demonstrated in their consecutive fixtures against Levante—when they dropped five points—Real could close the gap to the top.
Atletico only have two wins in their last five league games, but—as they demonstrated against Villarreal—they remain lethal when allowed to turn on the class.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid