The Madrid Derby
La Liga table-toppers Real Madrid hosted city rivals Atletico Madrid with a chance to open up a 13-point gap. Los Blancos came into the game with the confidence that they have not lost any of their last 10 La Liga games against their 4th-placed rivals. Real Madrid won the last Madrid Derby even though it was played at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium. Carlo Ancelotti would be worried though as he has not won any of his four encounters with the current La Liga champions. He would also be wary of his side’s defensive frailties in recent weeks despite his side putting behind a major UEFA Champions League upset to qualify on top of their group. The attack has been flawless though, they have scored the most goals in La Liga. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr have become a dreaded duo.
Diego Simeone will be displeased with the way his team has played this season. They were heavy favorites to retain their title but they have had a disappointing campaign already 10 points away from the top. Los Colchoneros struggled to qualify from their UEFA Champions League group. Last week, they lost to Real Mallorca, a tie they should be winning. A win at the Santiago Bernabeu could kickstart their campaign. Atletico has the second-best attack in the league, but what has held their campaign back is surprisingly their defense. They have only the fourth-best defense in the league.
Real Madrid started in a 4-3-3 shape while Atletico came in their standard 4-4-2 formation. The first significant action started with Rodrigo De Paul driving the ball forward then releasing Marcos Llorente. The Spaniard’s cross did not make it to Matheus Cunha. The Brazilian then hit a shot over the bar following a long ball from De Paul that Dani Carvajal struggled with. With their first proper attack of the game, Real Madrid took the lead. Captain Koke was dispossessed by Luka Modric and the ball was given to La Liga player of the month Vinicius Jr who cut it back for Karim Benzema to volley in his 13th La Liga goal of the campaign. Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid.
Atletico Madrid became tentative despite starting the game on the front foot. Diego Simeone was having a go at Cunha and Yannick Carrasco for their lack of influence on the game. Koke trying to make up for his error for the Real Madrid goal fired a wayward shot over the bar. The tackles started to fly in as things got heated. Modric pushed Cunha over on the edge of the box. Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick forced a terrific dive from Thibaut Courtois. On 37, Real Madrid played some lovely one-touch football before Casemiro slipped in Vinicius who forced a save from Oblak when he tried to chip it with his left foot. The first half flew by with Benzema’s strike the difference at the halfway mark.
Joao Felix replaced the anonymous and careless Griezmann while Thomas Lemar replaced Carrasco. Benzema came off for Luka Jovic. Three minutes into the second half, Vinicius slipped in Marco Asensio but the attacking midfielder took one touch too much and allowed Mario Hermoso to recover. Felix came on with purpose and tested Courtois with a stinging shot. The Belgian was called into action again when Felix’s no-look pass freed Cunha. Just like the first half, Atletico Madrid began to pile the pressure but Real Madrid scored the goal. A devastating counterattack from Real Madrid and Luka Jovic showed good hold-up play before Vinicius set up Marco Asensio to curl home his first-time finish. Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid.
On 60, Hermoso should have done better from a delightful Lemar cross. Luka Modric was running the show as matters petered down. David Alaba committed a foul in a dangerous position and Lemar whipped in a dangerous cross that Courtois had to palm away. Four minutes later, he had to do the same when Lemar fizzed in another cross from almost the same position. Before that Jovic held up the ball well for Ferland Mendy to cross for Vinicius but Renan Lodi put him off. Vinicius received applause and a standing ovation from the Bernabeu before Mateu Lahoz carded Alaba and Luis Suarez. Felix forced another save from Courtois as it ended, Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.