One of the most consequential Madrid derbies in recent memory will take place this coming Sunday at the Wanda Metropolitano. Atletico Madrid host Real Madrid in La Liga, with Los Rojiblancos currently setting the pace at the top of the table but under increasing pressure from their city neighbours and Barcelona.
The table suggests comfort. Atletico are five points clear of Barcelona and Madrid, with a game in hand. But Spain’s traditional big two carry tremendous cachet, and are in better form than Atletico, who have lost one and won two of their previous five in La Liga. Both Barcelona and Madrid have won four of their last five.
Los Rojiblancos started the season on fire, but have faltered in recent times. Their traditionally adversarial mentality befits suits the underdog, the man on the shoulder as opposed to leading the pack. Retaining their mental fortitude will be essential should they intend on winning a second league title this century, and Sunday’s derby will be a stern test.
“The championship is very beautiful,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said pre-match in comments carried by Marca. “Tomorrow two teams that are fighting in similar situations at the top of the table will face each other. There are three points [to be won], that’s clear. There’s a lot of football to be played. We’ll try to take the game to where we can do damage.”
Simeone was asked whether he’s going to start Angel Correa or Joao Felix alongside Luis Suarez. “We’ve been training both ways,” he replied. “Each gives us something. Correa participates more in the team’s buildup while Joao has things that nobody else who will play tomorrow has. They’ll both play, but one will start and the other will have to wait. But they’ll both play.”