The latest instalment of the Madrid derby will take place at Bernabeu on Saturday evening, with Real Madrid welcoming bitter rivals Atletico Madrid in Spain’s top flight. The home side are currently second in the table, eight points behind division leaders Barcelona, while Atletico occupy fourth position, just four points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis in the race for the top four. Real Madrid do not have much room for error in La Liga due to Barcelona’s stunning form, with the reigning champions currently second in the table, eight points behind the division leaders, who will next be in league action away to Almeria on Sunday evening. Carlo Ancelotti’s side must keep winning and hope that Barcelona slip up, and the home team will enter this match off the back of five straight victories in all competitions, including successes over Al Ahly and Al-Hilal in Morocco earlier this month to win the 2022 Club World Cup. Real Madrid have also won their last two in the league against Elche and Osasuna, scoring six times and conceding zero, while they recorded a standout victory in the Champions League on Tuesday night, beating Liverpool 5-2 in the first leg of their last-16 affair at Anfield.
Los Blancos were actually two goals behind to the Reds in the early stages but then went on to score five times without reply to place themselves in a strong position to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. Ancelotti’s team will also have one eye on their Copa del Rey semi-final first leg with Barcelona on March 2, with the capital giants fighting for three major trophies in the closing months of the campaign. Real Madrid – unbeaten at home in the league in 2022-23 – recorded a 2-1 victory over Atletico in the reverse game at Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season, while they were 2-0 winners when the two sides locked horns for the corresponding fixture last term. Atletico have not beaten Real Madrid at Bernabeu in La Liga since 2016, which is an indication of the size of their task in this match, but Diego Simeone’s side will be the fresher of the two teams. Indeed, the Red and Whites are not playing European football at the moment following their disappointing Champions League group-stage campaign, which saw them finish bottom of their section; Atletico were also knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Real Madrid in the quarter-finals at the end of January.
As a result, the club only have La Liga football to worry about for the rest of the season, and their full focus will be on claiming a top-four position. As it stands, they are fourth in the table, four points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis and just two points behind Real Sociedad in third, with the team recording a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao last weekend courtesy of a second-half effort from Antoine Griezmann. Atletico are not close to being in a title race this term, though, sitting 18 points behind leaders Barcelona, while they are 10 from second-placed Real Madrid on the same number of matches (22). Simeone’s future as head coach continues to be called into question, with the Argentine thought to be considering leaving his position at the end of the campaign. There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a disappointing season for Colchoneros, but they have the fourth-best away record in La Liga this season, winning seven of their 11 matches, collecting 23 points in the process. Real Madrid will again be missing Ferland Mendy due to a hamstring problem, but Aurelien Tchouameni is back in the squad after recovering from illness.
Mariano Diaz has also recovered from the muscular problem that forced him to miss out against Liverpool, with the forward increasing Ancelotti’s options in attack. David Alaba and Rodrygo suffered injuries against Liverpool, meanwhile, and both have been ruled out of this match, with suggestions that the former could be out for a month with a hamstring injury; Rodrygo is also facing up to 10 days out with a gluteal issue. Nacho could therefore feature at left-back, while Federico Valverde might be moved further forward into the front three, with Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga potentially joining Tchouameni in the middle, as Luka Modric’s fitness is being carefully managed at a key stage of the campaign. As for Atletico, Rodrigo de Paul will be absent with the muscular problem that he suffered against Athletic last time out, while Thomas Lemar is also expected to miss out through injury. The visitors will be boosted by the return of Stefan Savic from suspension, though, with the experienced centre-back likely to replace Jose Gimenez in the starting side. Pablo Barrios could be the player to replace De Paul in the middle, while Simeone is expected to make a change in his forward line, with Alvaro Morata, who has had two separate spells at Real Madrid, potentially replacing Angel Correa to start alongside Griezmann.