Real Madrid host Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in a tie that could define this season’s La Liga title race tomorrow night. Los Blancos sit top of the table heading into the game, ten points clear of Los Rojiblancos, Spain’s defending champions.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have simply looked better than everyone else so far this year. They beat Sevilla in Madrid two weeks ago and followed that up with a ballsy 2-0 win at Real Sociedad, before securing top spot in their Champions League group courtesy of their defeat of Internazionale during the week.
Atletico are living a different moment. They scraped through to the last 16 of the Champions League by the skin of their teeth, beating Porto late on and being helped out by Milan’s inability to defeat Liverpool at San Siro the same night. Domestically, they’ve looked uncertain, a shadow of the side that won the 2020/21 title.
“The statistics say that it’s three points,” Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference as carried by Marca. “Then there’s the emotional aspect, which comes with playing a derby against a direct rival. It’s clear that this is going to put more pressure on both teams. It’s a game that the fans feel in a particular way, but in the table it’s three points. We’ll try to get those three points and make our fans happy.”
Ancelotti confirmed that Karim Benzema, who missed the victory over Internazionale through injury, would be fit to play. “Today he’s trained well,” the Italian said. “He feels good, he’s available and tomorrow he will play. Everyone trained except for [Dani] Ceballos, who’ll train next week. I want to highlight the work of our medical team and coaches because having almost all our players available at this point of the season is testament to their work.”