Real Madrid is in an interesting position at the moment. Although favorites to win this season’s Champions League, according to a new study put out by CIES Football Observatory, Carlo Ancelotti’s men must first get past Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid – a team they’ve failed to beat in their last six encounters.
The city-rivals square off against one another on Tuesday in the first part of a two-legged tie that will send one team through to the semis and the other back to Madrid. Atletico are the home team for the first leg so Real Madrid face the daunting task of meeting their bitter rivals in the intimidating atmosphere of the Vicente Calderon. The Calderon is never an easy place for visiting teams and the last time Real paid a visit they left on the wrong end of a 4-0 drubbing. Real hasn’t in fact beat Atletico since last season’s Champions League final. Since then, Atleti has beat them in the Spanish Super Cup, knocked them out of the Copa del Rey and swept them in the league this season. They may have fallen off the pace from last season’s impressive title challenge, but if there’s one thing Simeone’s side can still do it’s beat Real Madrid.
For years, the rivalry was tilted the other way, but Simeone’s teams have shown a knack for getting under the skin of Real Madrid. And while Atleti’s physical approach often falls flat against Barcelona, it seems to fluster this Real Madrid side, forcing them to make mistakes or reckless decisions. Atletico also has a good record at home this season, having won all four of their Champions League matches at the Calderon.
Real Madrid however also has an impressive away record, having won all of its away fixtures in Europe this season. Ancelotti also has the benefit of having been able to rest Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema on the weekend against Eibar. The Italian manager will have the benefit of his full strength squad to choose from. Tony Kroos and James Rodriguez were suspended against Eibar and should be especially fresh for Tuesday.
Atletico, who were held to a draw by Malaga on Saturday, also have a full strength squad. Striker Mario Mandzukic has recovered from a recent ankle problem and should be fit to start Tuesday. Meanwhile, Simeone has stated he will start in-form goalkeeper Jan Oblak whose good form has made him the preferred option over Miguel Angel Moya.