The Vicente Calderon has not been an easy place for Real Madrid to go in recent years. Last time they visited, they lost 4-0. That was during Carlo Ancelotti’s time in charge, during which Real failed to register a single win over Atleti in La Liga.
But now, with a new manager in charge and having beaten Atletico in the Champions League the last time the two met, Real Madrid are likely to be more confident going into this weekend’s fixture than they’ve been for some time; especially with Atletico still smarting from losing at home in the Champions League for the first time under Diego Simeone.
With just two points separating them in the table, both sides have it all to play for on Sunday. Atletico are notorious for giving very little away at the Vicente Calderon, but this Real Madrid side is currently in a marauding mood.
Especially Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese scored twice in Real’s 2-0 win over Malmo in the Champions League this week, surpassing Raul to become the clubs’ all-time leading scorer. Part of Ronaldo’s new potency in front of goal is due to a positional shift that’s seen him playing more as a conventional striker.
Against Malmo he started up top next to Karim Benzema and stayed central not rather than drifting in from out wide. When the Frenchman was withdrawn he played as a solitary striker.
It’s a position that suits the two-time World Player of the Year, who turns 31 next year. It will also add a new directness to Real Madrid’s attack that’s a little different to what Atletico has faced in the past. It’s not just Real’s attack that has sharpened since the last time these two sides met. Manager Rafa Benitez shored up many of the defensive problems the team exhibited under Carlo Ancelotti.
In six wins and two draws, Real has scored 20 goals under Benitez while giving up only one. With Atletico’s wobbly start –- two losses in La Liga and one in the Champions League –- Real Madrid will smell the blood in the water.
Benitez will be hoping to do something Ancelotti failed to do in his entire spell in charge at Real: beat Atletico.
But Atletico are not exactly the same team they’ve been in seasons past either. The unrelenting, hard-tackling approach that won them the title in 2014 has given way to a more nuanced style of play.
Antoine Griezmann’s emergence last season along with the arrival of Jackson Martinez and the resurgence of Fernando Torres has seen Atleti play a more attractive, flowing style of football. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been as effective as the battering ram style Simeone’s side is known for and it’s a risky strategy to try and play football with a team like Real Madrid.
Catch Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid this Sunday at 2:25pm ET on beINSPORTS.