This weekend LaLiga Santander is all set for one of the biggest games of the season as Atlético Madrid make the short trip across town to the Santiago Bernabéu to take on Real Madrid.
These two great rivals have already met this season thanks to their respective successes in European competitions last season.
Champions League winners Real Madrid met Europa League champions Atlético in the Uefa Super Cup in the Estonian city of Tallinn in August, with the Rojiblancos running out 4-2 winners after extra time in an absolute thriller.
The two title contenders clash again, but this time in the Spanish League’s early stages.
Real Madrid will be out to avenge that Uefa Super Cup loss, although there is far more than pride at stake.
Both teams are clear contenders for the 2018/19 LaLiga Santander title and, with both sides having dropped points already, there is little margin for any more slip-ups.
Oblak, Griezmann, Costa, Modric, Bale - All the stars collide in Madrid
The Madrid sides have assembled arguably two of the very best squads in world football.
In fact, going by Uefa’s club coefficients rankings, these are the two best teams in Europe right now.
So it’s not surprising that there are talented players in almost every position.
Atlético’s talented goalkeeper Jan Oblak will be key if they are to have any chance of claiming an away win.
Atlético have only lost only one of their past 10 LaLiga Santander derbies against Los Blancos, keeping a clean sheet in four of those.
Another shutout would be more than welcome for coach Diego Simeone on Saturday evening.
Los Rojiblancos also have a dynamic front two in Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa, two players who can trouble any defence.
Costa scored twice in the recent Uefa Super Cup victory, while Griezmann has scored on each of his past three league visits to the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid will be expecting their star-studded midfield to control the match and drive the team to victory.
Luka Modric has had an exceptional year and was recently named Uefa’s player of the season as well as the world’s best male player at the Best Fifa Football Awards, so all eyes will be on him pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
Up front, Gareth Bale has been averaging at least one goal or assist per game this season and, together with Karim Benzema, will be looking to find a way past Oblak.
1. Several players will be coming up against their former club in this derby. Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois used to play for Atlético, while Antonio Adán, Juanfran, Filipe Luís and Saúl Ñíguez were once all on Real Madrid’s books.
2. The first official Madrid derby was held in 1906 and it was Real Madrid who came out on top with a 2-1 win. There have been 282 official meetings in total, with 146 Real Madrid wins, 65 draws and 71 Atlético victories.
3. Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has played in 39 official derbies, the third-most of any player in history. He is only three appearances away from matching the joint record of 42, held by Paco Gento and Manolo Sanchís.
4. Atlético were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid four years in a row, in 2013/14 (final), 2014/15 (quarter-finals), 2015/16 (final) and 2016/17 (semi-finals), adding extra drama to an already heated rivalry.
5. Coaches Diego Simeone and Julen Lopetegui faced each other seven times during their playing days, with the Argentine on the winning side four times, on the losing side twice and drawing once. Simeone even scored a penalty in one match, a penalty conceded by Lopetegui, who was sent off for the foul.
City bragging rights at stake
This derby really matters to Madrileños, the people of Madrid.
Not only is there a local rivalry and the desire to get one over the noisy neighbours, but this game also matters for each club’s respective title chances.
Their history goes way back. Atlético was formed in 1903 by a group of Basque students who wanted an alternative to Madrid FC, the club that would go on to become Real Madrid.
In the decades following the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, these two teams were consistently competing against each other, so much so that Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stéfano even considered the Madrid derby more important than El Clásico against Barcelona.
While the thrill of the derby diminished a little between 1999 and 2013, a 14-year period without any Atlético victories, it has become extra spicy now that Atlético are consistently challenging for titles. Intense battles have been played out between these sides in LaLiga Santander, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, the Champions League and the Uefa Super Cup in the last few years.
The rivalry transcends a single competition or a single game.
The Madrid Derby becomes a global derby
With both teams boasting massive international fanbases, this derby will be experienced in cities around the world, from Madrid to Mumbai, from Melbourne to Miami.
There are Real Madrid and Atlético peñas – supporters’ groups – across the world, while neutral football fans will also be tuning in to see a great game of football between two teams who have put on some wonderful spectacles over the past few years.
Madrid Derby start time: 20:30 on SuperSport 7