We preview the La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, including our pre-match prediction for this huge Madrid derby on Saturday night at Santiago Bernabéu.

Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid: Quick Hits

  • Real Madrid favourites to keep up the pressure on Barcelona at the top of LaLiga with a win in the Madrid derby on Saturday.
  • Carlo Ancelotti’s side are being given a 46.1% chance of defeating Atlético Madrid in this game by the Opta supercomputer.
  • Vinícius Júnior was the catalyst for Real’s UCL victory at Liverpool in midweek and he’ll be the key man once again.

Match Preview

The Madrid Derby experienced a jolt of life when Diego Simeone took over as the manager of Atlético Madrid in 2011. Once seen as a minor annoyance by their city rivals, Real Madrid, Atlético had become what their fans always said they were: tough, physical and hard to beat. But above all, they were successful. Real Madrid haven’t sweated too much over Atlético in more recent years but the intensity in the rivalry from those early Cholo years lives on.

Real have lost just one of their last 13 games against Atlético de Madrid in LaLiga (W6 D6), 1-0 on the road in May 2022. Atlético have lost in their last three away trips against Real Madrid. But Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has won just 28.6% of his games against Atlético in LaLiga (GP7 W2 D1 L4), his joint-lowest win percentage against a single opponent with at least two games played in the competition (also 28.6% vs. Villarreal – P7 W2 D4 L1).

Simeone has played against Real Madrid 22 times in LaLiga with five wins, eight draws and nine losses. With four of those victories coming against Ancelotti, the only other manager he managed to beat at Real Madrid is Zinedine Zidane, failing to win against Jose Mourinho (three losses in three games), Julen Lopetegui, Rafa Benitez and Santiago Solari.

A defeat for Real Madrid would see them lose potentially fatal ground in their title challenge as they sit eight points behind leaders Barcelona. There would be nothing Atlético Madrid or Diego Simeone would savour more than throwing a spanner in the works of Madrid trying to win another trophy.

Atlético have their own position in the league to worry about. They have the added impetus of a challenge for their claim as the third-best team in Spain. Real Sociedad are in flying form under Imanol Alguacil and are sitting third – our supercomputer gives them a 40.1% of finishing there – and Real Betis under Manuel Pellegrini look like they aren’t going away any time soon either. Atlético need Champions League football. It is what Simeone’s entire reason for being at the club is about. He guarantees a top-four finish, ending the season third or higher in all 10 full seasons he has managed the club.

Previous Meeting

Real Madrid 3-1 Atlético Madrid (AET): 26 January 2023 (Spanish Copa del Rey)

Real Madrid 3-1 Atlético Madrid 2022-23 Goals

The last time these two teams met was in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals at the end of January. The Copa was considered the last title Atlético could win having removed themselves from LaLiga consideration with some abysmal form before the World Cup.

They were knocked out of Europe by finishing rock bottom of their Champions League group before the break too. Atlético were gung-ho in that game – or as gung-ho as Cholo will permit – and they still came up short. Álvaro Morata gave them the lead before Rodrygo equalised late on. Once the game went to extra-time there was only going to be one winner. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jnr. sealed Madrid’s passage into the semi-final as Madrid peppered Jan Oblak’s goal with shots.

Atlético created a number of big chances and won the xG battle but Real Madrid went the death by 1,000 shots route and won.

Real Madrid 3-1 Atlético Madrid 2022-23 xG

Recent Form

Real Madrid don’t really do form. They don’t believe in it as a concept. Instead, they do moments of pure magic like we saw at Anfield last Tuesday night. “Just when you think you’re closest to beating them is when you’re closest to losing to them,” is how Athletic Bilbao manager, Ernesto Valverde, put it recently. Liverpool could taste victory after taking a two-goal lead only to have it snatched from them.

Two goals down, inside the first 15 minutes, Real Madrid came back to win 5-2. It was the first time Liverpool had ever conceded five goals at home in the Champions League. All in a nights work for Real Madrid. It’s true that they haven’t played particularly well this season and are struggling at key positions, namely right-back and left-back, but they find a way. Real Madrid always find a way.

They have won their last two LaLiga games and they could win three consecutive games in the competition for the first time since October 2022 (4).

Atlético Madrid, on the other hand, very much believe in form. You can feel the mood shift in the stadium when they’re not in a good moment. You can see the trepidation in the players’ passes. Simeone believes his side have come back after the World Cup like a new team. There’s a renewed sense of urgency and purpose to the team. They have not lost any of their last six games in LaLiga (W4 D2), their longest unbeaten run this season in the competition. One of the ket factors has been Rodrigo de Paul’s return to form but he suffered a muscle injury and is out of the Madrid derby. Pablo Barrios is the natural replacement but has only recently made the step up from Atlético’s reserves and will be tested to the maximum against Madrid’s array of midfield talent.

Marco Asensio has scored in three of his last four games with Real Madrid in LaLiga, including one goal in each of his last two (vs. Elche & Osasuna), but he has never scored in three consecutive games in the top-flight (211 appearances). Karim Benzema has scored in three of his last four games against Atlético de Madrid in LaLiga (three goals), including the most recent two (one goal in March and one goal in December 2021). Karim Benzema has scored in three of his last four games against Atlético de Madrid in LaLiga (three goals), including the most recent two (one goal in March and one goal in December 2021).

Players to Watch

Real Madrid: Vinícius Júnior

It’s time we had a discussion as Vinícius Jr as the most decisive footballer in the world. Time and again, the Brazilian comes good when Real Madrid need him most as we saw against Liverpool on Tuesday night. His first goal was the catalyst, the seed of belief Real Madrid needed to make the comeback a reality. He got lucky with the second goal but he won the free that was eventual converted for the third and was generally a source of anxiety for Liverpool all night.

This season, Vinicius has 198 take-ons. That is the most in Europe’s top five leagues by an order of magnitude. Lionel Messi is second with 121. He is second behind Messi in successful take-ons (61) and third in touches in the opposition box (159) behind Kylian Mbappé and Mohamed Salah. He also leads the way across the top five European leagues for shot involvements following a ball carry (49 – 30 shots, 19 chances created).

Most Carries Leading to Shot Involvements

Atlético Madrid: Antoine Griezmann

When Antoine Griezmann is on song, Atlético Madrid are on song. Don’t believe us? His own manager admitted as much after a slim victory over Athletic Bilbao last weekend. In that game, Griezmann carried the team on his back and Cholo said: ‘When Griezmann is playing well, this team is on another level.’

Griezmann has scored seven goals in 25 games in LaLiga against Real Madrid but he has failed to net in his last seven against them, his longest run without scoring against Los Blancos in the competition. He leads Atlético in shot-ending involvements and, as Simeone said, if Griezmann plays well then Atlético Madrid can take it to another level.

Atlético Madrid important players

Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid Prediction

Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid Prediction opta

The Opta supercomputer can’t resist Real Madrid in this one. They’re playing at home and have Atlético’s number in recent years. Hence, the 46.1% chances it gives them to win all three points. Barcelona don’t play until Sunday when they face struggling Almería so Real Madrid have a chance to close the gap and keep some pressure on Xavi’s side.

Real Betis sit on 40 points after coming back from two goals down against Elche on Friday night to win 3-2. Atlético sit one point ahead in fourth. A victory for Atlético in the derby would give them some breathing space for another week but the supercomputer only gives them 25% of leaving the Santiago Bernabéu with three points.

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