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Real Madrid – Atlético de Madrid: More than a Derbi

Real Madrid takes on Atlético de Madrid in the capital’s Derbi. This game kicks off a terrific schedule for Los Blancos. They will be facing Atlético, Bayern twice and Barcelona in a two week span. Their local rival has won the last five games in LaLiga conceding only one goal during the streak. They’ve won three in a row at the Bernabéu in LaLiga, but Real has knocked them out from the Champions League in the last three editions, two of them in thrilling finals. Real will try to maintain the top of the table, while Atlético will fight for securing the third spot.

Simeone’s DNA is back

Atletico’s recipe for success has been clear since Simeone took over in 2011. A very solid team almost impossible to break down. They struggled during the first half of the season in this department and they dropped an amount of points that put their appearance in the next Champions League on the line. But they’ve turned the situation around in the last month. They are in a five-game winning streak and they’ve recovered back the strengths that led them to LaLiga title in 2014 and to two Champions League runner-up honors. Atlético have only conceded one goal over the last five games and Oblak has only faced twelve shots on target. Diego Godin is back at his best and Filipe Luis has scored in back to back games.


Zidane rested Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in Real’s victory at Leganes and it’s complicated to imagine a scenario without any on them in the starting lineup on Sunday. Kroos was benched at Leganes too and Modric saw limited action. This structure - the BBC plus Casemiro-Modric-Kroos - has been indisputable for Zidane for the last year. It worked pretty well the last season, but right now many of these players are far away from their best and Isco is knocking on the door. The Spanish offensive midfielder is one of the best players in the squad right now and he had a key role in the game played at Atlético in November. Benzema was injured and Zidane started four midfielders that allowed Real to control the pace of the game and eventually destroyed Atlético (0-3).

Nacho or Pepe. Who’s joining Ramos?

Raphael Varane got injured against Alavés and Zidane has two candidates for one spot in the centre of the defense. The experience of Pepe against Nacho’s momentum and progression. The Spanish centre back has played 20 games in LaLiga and his stats look really nice. He has won 51% of the tackles (against Pepe’s 39%) and 59% of the headed duels (Pep has the edge in this department with a remarkable 66%). The Portuguese is one of the most trusted players by Zidane but Nacho’s performance has been superb and he played a near-perfect game at Calderon. He made six interceptions and won 67% of headed duels.

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