A game which promised explosives in the end offered very little as Atletico and Real Madrid played out a goalless draw in Saturday night’s Madrid derby.
In truth, it rarely looked like any other outcome was likely, although Jan Oblak made good saves from Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema to preserve parity, while Atletico didn’t register a single shot on target at the other end – the third consecutive game in which Real have prevented their keeper from making a save.
Both teams looked pretty pleased to take a point from the game…and that kicks off our talking points to emerge from the action.
Settling for a stalemate?
This was the fair result on the night, with neither team deserving to lose the game or doing enough to win it.
Indeed, there was a sense that both camps would be happy to settle for a draw even an hour before kick-off, when the teamsheets were handed in to reveal that Diego Simeone had opted for a strong midfield with Thomas Partey partnership Saul and Koke while Thomas Lemar was left on the bench, while Zinedine Zidane dropped James Rodriguez in favour of the more defensive and combative Fede Valverde.
The consequence was a game that took place mainly in the middle third of the pitch, looking like an encounter that both teams were keener not to lose rather than take any risks in pursuit of victory. The outcome allows Atletico to stay hot on the heels of their cross-city rivals and edge a point ahead of Barcelona, while Real are still unbeaten in the league and have now kept three consecutive clean sheets.
The latter stages were played out with a sense of inevitability that no goals would arrive, with no final frantic charge or desperate defending, and a late winner would have been unmerited at either end.
Thomas brings the Partey
Atletico’s midfield has been rather unsettled in the past couple of years, with the departure of former skipper Gabi and Manchester City’s capture of Rodri leaving undisputed starters Saul and Koke without consistent partners.
Many players and formations have been tried, with Thomas Lemar, Vitolo and Angel Correa all getting regular chances in the middle four last season, before Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera were added in the summer to add further competition.
Another player who has been in and out of the team, however, currently looks more than capable of nailing down a place in the side and becoming one of the first names on Diego Simeone’s teamsheet: Thomas Partey was immense in this fixture, continuing his strong start to the campaign with a performance combining controlled physicality, game awareness and astute passing to catch the eye in the centre of the field.
The Ghana international started less than half of Atletico’s games over the last couple of seasons, but on this evidence he is ready to take a big step forward this season and potentially become one of La Liga’s most commanding central midfielders.
Thomas Partey’s game by numbers vs. Real Madrid:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 28, 2019
90% pass accuracy
49 forward passes
9 ball recoveries
Phenomenal performance. 🇬🇭 pic.twitter.com/ZU7qOkQbNK
Hazard still struggling
This was another lacklustre game for Eden Hazard, who had plenty of possession down the left wing but looked off the pace and was regularly caught in possession, struggling to make any inroads against Atletico’s disciplined defence.
In fact, he was outshone down his flank by another former Premier League player, with Kieran Trippier’s regular surges down the wing taking a central part of the action and forcing Real into several uncomfortable clearances. Hazard’s display, meanwhile, was summed up by an embarrassing moment early in the second half when poor control saw him commit a silly handball, and before long he was replaced by James Rodriguez having done little to live up to his superstar billing.
Suffering an injury on the eve of the new campaign to miss a month of action certainly didn’t help his settling-in process, but it’s now time for Hazard to step up, find his rhythm and show why Real were so determined to pursue him for more than a year. If he doesn’t, he won’t be staying in the starting eleven for much longer.
Take-ons completed in the first half of the Madrid derby:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 28, 2019
Kieran Trippier: 2
Eden Hazard: 1
Things have changed. 😅 pic.twitter.com/9OjF0bJdEk
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