Real Madrid head into this weekend’s Madrid Derby hit by some key absences; most notably, James Rodriguez, who broke his foot midweek against Sevilla and will be out for at least two months. But perhaps more worryingly, Sergio Ramos will be sidelined for five weeks with a hamstring, while left-back, Marcelo is suspended. Luka Modric and Pepe are also sidelined due to injury.
With Marcelo unavailable and Fabio Coentrao also doubtful, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is likely to start Alvaro Arbeloa at left-back. Meanwhile Tony Kroos and Isco are likely to feature in midfield in light of James’ and Modric’s absence.
One player who Ancelotti will be able to select is Cristiano Ronaldo. The current World Player of the Year turned 30 this week and has served out his two-match suspension for kicking an opponent against Cordoba last month. Having sat out the last two matches, the Portuguese powerhouse will be raring to get back into action and could be key against Atleti. On occasions like this, the Vicente Calderon will turn into a cauldron of hostility for the visitors. But it’s situations like this Ronaldo thrives in.
Despite all the injuries and absences Ancelotti must contend with, the Italian will have a fully-intact “BBC” with Ronaldo expected to slot into a front three that will also feature Karim Benzema and the unfairly-maligned Gareth Bale. In attack at least, Real Madrid head to the Calderon at full strength.
Atletico on the other hand, not only have the advantage of being the home side, but also have no major injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s derby. Koke and Arda Turan have both recently come back from injuries, and are both likely to start on either side of midfield with Tiago and Gabi in the middle. Atleti’s formidable defense will be anchored as usual by Diego Godin and Juanfran.
Meanwhile up top, Atleti boss Diego Simeone has something of a selection headache. Of all the strikers signed to fill the gap left by Diego Costa, it’s Antoine Griezmann who has most distinguished himself in Atleti colors this season. The converted winger is certain to start against Real Madrid. And despite the excellent form Fernando Torres has shown since returning to Atletico, Diego Simeone announced in his Friday presser that he plans to partner Griezmann with Mario Mandzukic. It’s taken time, but the two have formed a potent strike partnership this season with each player complimenting the other’s strengths.
With Real thus far unable to beat Atleti this season, the numbers do favor the home side. In five meetings, Simeone’s men have come away with two wins and three draws against Real Madrid. In fact Atleti hasn’t lost to Real Madrid since the Champions League final last May. But in his own Friday press conference, Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t put off by these statistics and dismissed any notion of settling for a draw.
“That’s the sort of thing you talk about after a game,” said the Italian. “Our aim is to win the game, as it always is.”