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Wednesday April 22 2015
All up for grabs

After the scoreless draw in the first leg at the Vicente Calderon, it is all to play for at the Santiago Bernabeu. Garreth Nunn looks at what promises to be a great match.

Last week the talk before El Derbi was one of change from the Real Madrid half of the city. And, for 45 minutes, Real Madrid dominated and pushed Atletico de Madrid to the limit. If it hadn’t been for goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Los Rojiblancos would be facing an uphill task at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Before the game, Merengue players said that they had finally figured out how to beat their city rivals. After six games without a win against Atleti, the penny had finally dropped and so with this new knowledge they went in search of an away win that would put them on top and, after the first half, many thought they would get that win and also score their first goal at the Calderon this season.

But, the goal didn’t come and towards the end of the second half it was Los Rojiblancos who looked closest to scoring. Alas, there were no goals in what was an exciting game and the scene was set for this week.

For the first time in their history, Real Madrid have gone seven games without a win against their city rivals. The stat has stung many at the club and they desperately want to end the current run, but injuries are now a major concern for Los Merengues.

Marcelo is out through suspension and this weekend the club lost Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. It is Bale’s sixth injury since joining the club and his loss will be felt even more due to fact that Carlo Ancelotti also has Karim Benzema ruled out. The Frenchman didn’t make the squad for last weekend’s La Liga game against Malaga and he will again be absent on Wednesday.

How long Modric will be out is unclear but the club have confirmed that he suffered a strain to the medial collateral ligament of his right knee and that they were monitoring his situation. Modric has only returned from injury and his return coincided with the Real Madrid midfield tightening up. The Croat’s loss will be noticed but, with James Rodriguez back, it will be felt a little less.

With no Bale and no Benzema, a lot of responsibility now falls on Cristiano Ronaldo and lately he has been very frustrated by the Atletico defence. Apart from injuries, further suspensions are also a concern. Ancelotti will be keen for Fabio Coentrao and Toni Kroos to avoid the referee’s notebook and that is something Atleti will be keen to take advantage of.

Atletico themselves have a few suspension worries. Mario Suarez is already out and they have Cristian Ansaldi, Gabi, Jesus Gamez and Fernando Torres a card away from missing the next game. Suarez will be missed in the middle of the park but Tiago should be back and the Portuguese midfielder is seen as a stronger player than Suarez, so for many it may even be a step up. Yet, Suarez does have a habit of turning up in big games and it was for that reason he was put ahead of the former Chelsea man in the first leg and so he will be missed.

This weekend Atletico beat Deportivo de la Coruna with Antoine Griezmann on the scoresheet. Mario Mandzukic had a tough game against Real Madrid in the first leg and he missed the Depor game, more as a precaution, but he looks set to make the Real Madrid encounter and will want revenge for the treatment he received last week. Arda Turan is another player who steps up in these games too, having already scored against Real Madrid this season at the Bernabeu, and the Turk will be crucial if Atleti want to go through to the next round.

After the first tie, both managers tried to suggest that the result of the first leg was good for their side. But, with the injuries they have suffered and the possibility of conceding an away goal, Real Madrid face a tough task. That said, they did so back in May 2014 and look how that turned out!

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