As derbies go, it’s one of the most passionate and dramatic in Europe, however, in recent years, it has also been one of the most one-sided. Despite going close on a number of occasions, Atletico Madrid have not beaten their arch-rivals Real Madrid for over a decade – back in the days when Jimmy Flloyd Hasselbaink was plying his trade by the Manzanares.
This weekend they have the opportunity to end that run, but will have to do so against undefeated opponents who have scored a staggering 19 goals in their last four league matches. Should the best Atletico side turn up to the Bernabeu then there is no doubt they will give Madrid a serious test, the question is though, can they finally beat them?
Perhaps the most significant problem with Atletico, both this year and in the past, is their inconsistency. They are a side who have a tendency to be brilliant one week and dour the next, which is why they have struggled to compete in La Liga for so long. Against Almeria last weekend they were far from their best and they will have to markedly improve on that showing if they are to beat Madrid.
In particular, the defence will have to be strong and will have to limit the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Ozil to as few chances as possible – if they can do that, they will have a chance.
The big problem for Quique Sanchez Flores though is that he will have not a full strength back-line to choose from. Luis Perea is suspended, while Diego Godin is definitely out with injury and Alvaro Dominguez is a doubt after the Europa League game with Rosenborg. That could mean the return of Juan Valera into the starting eleven, with Tomas Ujfalusi, Filipe Luis and Antonio Lopez filling the rest of the positions in the defence.
Up front, Diego Forlan missed the game on Thursday night due to injury but he should be fit to start alongside Sergio Aguero at the Bernabeu. The Argentine seems to be rediscovering his best form lately and, after high-profile misses in recent derby clashes, he will be hoping that he can finally lead Atletico to victory on Sunday night.
Of course, Atletico not only have to worry about themselves at the Bernabeu, but also about their opponents, who have been in scintillating form as of late. Jose Mourinho’s team appear to be hitting top gear and as well as scoring for fun, they are also proving to be especially frugal at the back – conceding just five goals in the league all season. If Atletico are to win the game on Sunday, it is likely that they are are going to have to be the first team in La Liga to score at least two goals against Madrid.
With Jose Reyes, Simao, Forlan and Aguero in attack, Atletico certainly have the capability to do just that, but they will also have to ensure they are not ripped apart at the back like Deportivo La Coruna and Racing Santander have been. Should they play to their best, both in attack and in defence, they could well end Madrid’s undefeated start to the campaign, the worry though is that in recent years they have struggled to beat much worse sides at the Bernabeu than the one they face on Sunday.