Madrid derby set to be a tense, enthralling tie
The Madrid derby is set to take place on a relatively mild Sunday afternoon, but the stakes in the game itself should make it a typically hot and tempestuous affair at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Hosts Atlético currently enjoy a five-point lead over title rivals Real, and Zinedine Zidane's men have also played a match more in La Liga. Both they and Barcelona are in slightly better form than Diego Simeone's side, and every single point either team can claw back could be vital in deciding where this season's title will be lifted. Read our preview here:
Atleti shrugged off a run of three fixtures without a win in all competitions by claiming an impressive victory on the road at Villareal, which was made all the better for some experimentation in both personnel and the system employed. Against their world-famous city rivals on Sunday, Simeone will probably go with a 3-4-3, keeping the wider forwards in at least the half spaces from a horizontal point of view. This will be complemented by pushing up the wing-backs whenever possession is won back deep in their own half; the tried and tested method of soaking up the pressure and hitting the opposition on the counter isn't going to be completely dispensed with when it has such a high degree of success. Yannick Carrasco and Kieran Trippier are arguably more valuable in attacking situations than defensive ones, especially in the Belgian international's case. With the Bury born right-sided wing-back, this has been demonstrated time and again with his pinpoint crossing ability, and he should have three or more to aim for in every conceivable situation.
The decline of the Isco years
Although things are now looking far brighter for Real on the pitch than they were just a few months ago, this hasn't been the case for every senior players amongst their ranks. Well documented are the relative 'struggles' of midfielders Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos, but both of the hugely talented and experienced duo can still more than just occasionally roll back the years. Isco had been a mainstay up until perhaps last term, despite the revolving door of players and coaching staff in his near decade at the world giants. Rumours have never been fully gone away in the later period about a move away, perhaps to Arsenal like teammate Martin Ødegaard has, but on a more permanent basis. He has barely been afforded a start in 2020/2021, but might be thrown in behind Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio from the outset. Fans and pundits alike are more than aware of what he can do, but in scant minutes, he has not provided much evidence to the contrary of his supposed regression.
The other X in the likely Real lineup can make up for any deficiencies Isco does display, but they're not going to be leaving their rivals' ground with the points without an almighty battle. Simeone always manages to rally his troops for the big game occasions, and whilst they aren't in quite the sparkling form they've previously shown this year, they're still lording it at the top over both their rivals and Barcelona for good reason. Surprisingly, bet365 have odds of 2.30 for over 2.5 goals in this encounter.