Real Madrid take on Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday night in the first Madrid derby of the season. Although Los Colchoneros are far from crisis, things are not going exactly to plan for Diego Simeone.
In spite of that, summer signing Axel Witsel is looking forward to the match. Witsel, now 33, was expected to add some steel to the Atleti midfield but has performed exclusively has a central defender so far.
“One of the reasons we are in football is to play in games like this,” says the Belgian.
“I’ve played in some great derbies like Dortmund-Schalke, which is always hotly contested. I think it will be the same in the Madrid derby. From a young age, you dream of being a professional footballer, and playing in a game like this.”
Witsel is confident that they can handle Los Blancos though, who he will face for the first time in his career.
“We’re aware of what we have to do. There is a lot of pressure in the derby and throughout the season, but we have to learn to deal with that pressure, to stay calm.”
“We’ve got a very strong squad. Physically, we are in great shape, so it’s up to us to play to our potential and give it all we’ve got.”
Real Madrid come into the match having one all of their eight games so far this season, the only team in Europe to do so. The potential absence of Karim Benzema may help the likes of Witsel to shut Carlo Ancelotti’s side out at the Metropolitano, but it will be a stiff test of their mettle.
Axel Witsel was speaking to LaLiga World ahead of Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid on Sunday 18 September. Viewers in the United Kingdom can watch the Madrid Derby live on ITV4 from 7.30pm.