The Wanda Metropolitano is set to host one of the fiercest derbies in the world as Atletico Madrid take on Real Madrid on Saturday.
Both teams started their campaign on a shaky note and did not win their Champions League tie last week. But convincing wins in the mid-week games has handed the two teams a boost ahead of the big game.
A derby is bound to feature some individual duels on the pitch that could determine the outcome of the game. We look at the key-battles.
EDEN HAZARD V KIERAN TRIPPIER
Eden Hazard and Kieran Trippier will bring elements of the London derby to Madrid when they occupy the same flank on Saturday.
An incredible performance by Vinicius Junior against Osasuna should help him stake his claim for a starter’s role but Zinedine Zidane is likely to pick the experienced Belgian for such a big game. This means that the former Chelsea man will be under pressure to justify his spot in the line-up, given he has struggled and is yet to register a goal or assist this season.
Hazard will have to overcome a familiar foe in former Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier. On the other hand, the Englishman has enjoyed a positive start to life in Madrid. He has been one of their best players so far and Europe noticed this during his splendid display against Juventus.
THOMAS PARTEY V CASEMIRO
Both players are in great form and have rarely hit a bump this season. Casemiro has been the solid defensive screen protecting the shaky back-line whereas Partey has alternated between undertaking the role of a defensive midfielder and a box-to-box one.
The defensive-minded Ghanian midfielder offers a lot even in attack and has been the pivot for Los Rojiblancos. He played a crucial role in their win against Mallorca that ended a three-match win-less streak across all competitions.
His high work-rate and ability to launch counter-attacks could be key to Atletico in a game where the opposition is likely to enjoy more possession. On such an occasion, Casemiro will be tested, with both full-backs high up the pitch.
The Brazilian must be cautious at all times and throw in tactical fouls when needed. He might have to cover massive amounts of space because of the poor sense of positioning of Madrid’s centre-backs.
DIEGO COSTA V SERGIO RAMOS
Spanish team-mates Diego Costa and Sergio Ramos will lock horns in Madrid’s defensive half. The former scored four goals when Atletico forced a 7-3 rout over their rivals in a pre-season friendly. Ramos displayed a defensive disaster-class in that class but is now in positive spirits of a solid show against Osasuna.
Costa has scored one goal and assisted another in the league this season but he was average against Juventus in the Champions League. The 30-year-old has forged a good partnership with youngster Joao Felix and will be motivated to shine in a derby he cherishes.
Ramos needs to put in a disciplined shift to stop the striker who sunk his team during the UEFA Super Cup last year from repeating his exploits. Given the tendency of both players to wind each other up, they will need to show great composure to emerge victorious in this match-up. A red card to either or both the player is not that unlikely.
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