Atletico Madrid V Real Madrid
Sunday 2nd March. 4:00PM. Sky Sports 4.
Perhaps the biggest game in world football this weekend comes from the Vicente Calderon as Atletico Madrid host bitter rivals Real in what should be a Sunday afternoon feast.
With both clubs flying high in the La Liga table, this is the biggest league fixture between the two for some years and could help decipher the destination of this year’s title.
The Real Deal
Wednesday’s emphatic 6-1 Champions League mauling of Schalke further enforced Real Madrid’s credentials as being one of the top teams in Europe and put them one step closer to a magnificent treble.
The summer addition of Gareth Bale is finally starting to payoff after the Welshman took some time to acclimatise and recover from niggling injuries. Combined with the emergence of Jese, rejuvenated Karim Benzema and continued success of Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, Los Blancos are certainly starting to look like the real deal.
More importantly, though, is the club’s huge improvement defensively. The undeniable talents of Pepe and Ramos are finally looking a little calmer and the fear of any rash red cards is slowly but surely fading. Meanwhile, the fact Real are no longer resigned to playing Micahel Essien at the back (as they did for big portions of last season) certainly sures up the defence.
Meanwhile, the fact that Diego Lopez continues to keep out club legend Iker Casillas shows that Ancelotti is blessed when it comes to custodians.
Some sources questioned Ancelotti’s Blancos after some early season stumbles but after 25 games they sit three points clear at the La Liga summit and three points at Atletico would arguably narrow the title race down to two. With a Copa del Rey final and Champions League quarter-final awaiting, this could turn out to be one hell of a campaign for the Bernabeu giants.
Simeone’s Atletico Daren’t Slip Up Again
Before the season started nobody gave Atletico any chance of winning La Liga and even manager Diego Simeone bemoaned the el Clasico dominance. The lesser Madrid side have done fantastic to find themselves in this position, now that they’re here, they won’t want to give it up without a fight.
Atletico started February by establishing a three point lead at the top but have since surrendered that advantage by losing twice in three outings. Having also lost to Real in the Copa del Rey semi-final courtesy of a 5-3 aggregate scoreline, fears of derailing are starting to creep in and the Rojiblancos must avoid defeat if they are to retain hopes of a first league title since 1996.
The team spirit at Atletico is fantastic, as is their work ethic, and in Diego Costa they’ve got a genuine goal threat. If they can keep the likes of Ronaldo and Bale quiet then there is no reason that they can’t end Real’s 15 game unbeaten run.
Atletico held Barcelona to a 0-0, they’ll want to at least match that here.
Atletico Madrid V Real Madrid Betting
League leaders Real have been established as the favourites by Bet365 for this one at 11/10 and, following their 2-0 cup win here on February 1, it’s hard to argue against that. However, at 12/5 Atletico certainly have a chance if they play well whilst a Barcelona win (aka a draw) is also priced 12/5.
There’s a host of potential scorers on display but at 3/1, it is hard to resist Ronaldo. Usually the Portugal captain is around 15/8 in any given match, this is well worth a shout.
Only two of the last six meetings have had over 2.5 goals (excluding extra-time) so some might be tempted by Under 2.5 at Evens. However, that somewhat ruins the enjoyment of watching what could be a thrilling spectacle.
Not only are Real in sensational form, they’ve won the last three meetings at the Vicente Calderon scoring at least twice on each occasion. Whilst Atletico may be cautious from the start, should they fall behind then they’ll have little choice but to attack. If Ancelotti’s men are given the space then Thaibaut Courtois can expect his goal to be peppered with efforts from all directions.
Fresh from 6 goals at Schalke, over 1.5 Real madrid goals at 10/11 stands out as the best pick available.