The first Madrid derby of the 2019/20 La Liga season will take place on Saturday – and it’s set to be a fascinating spectacle.
The two Spanish giants will lock horns in a bid to not only claim early bragging rights, but also to assert some form of control at the top of the La Liga table.
In Real Madrid’s case, despite a fairly turbulent few weeks, they find themselves sat in first place and can move four points clear of their Madrid rivals with a win.
Here’s the most likely Los Blancos lineup, with Zinedine Zidane needing to contend with a number of injury issues.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – Real Madrid have now shut out their opposition in their last two matches, firstly against Sevilla and then against Osasuna. Unfortunately for Courtois, he has just the one clean sheet to his name this term as Alphonse Areola came into the side for the last match. Nonetheless, Zizou sees him as his number one and the big Belgian will be desperate to keep out Diego Simeone’s men.
Dani Carvajal (RB) – Similarly to Courtois (and most of the team), Carvajal was rested in the win over Osasuna, with Alvaro Odriozola replacing him. Zidane will be very aware of the fact that Atletico love to attack via the full backs and Carvajal will have to remain alert against Renan Lodi, who has started the season impressively at left back for Simeone.
Raphael Varane (CB) – Quite simply put, Varane is one of the best centre backs around and he is a given starter for this weekend’s crunch clash. The 26-year-old plays with a maturity well beyond his years, but the Frenchman knows he will be challenged on Saturday evening by the all-action Diego Costa and a certain teenage sensation in Joao Felix.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – Whenever Sergio Ramos is fit and not suspended, he is the first name on the team sheet for Zinedine Zidane. The captain will have the chance to renew his battle with Diego Costa and will very much be relishing it. On a competitive night when emotions can run high, the Spaniard will have to show his leadership qualities to keep his teammates focused.
Nacho (LB) – No, no, you did read that right. Nacho is the man who will likely fill in at left back, with both Marcelo and Ferland Mendy out injured. Zidane kept him out on the field for the full 90 minutes against Osasuna on Wednesday and although he may have helped his side claim a clean sheet, Atletico Madrid in the derby are a slightly different proposition. Joao Felix will likely drift over to the right hand side and look to test and unsettle Nacho in the early stages. However, the 29-year-old has bags of experience and this will be crucial for the upcoming clash.
Casemiro (CM) – Despite all his success, Casemiro is one of the more underrated players around and his work often goes unnoticed. The Brazilian enjoys the occasional long-range screamer, but is more renowned for his ability to read the game and snuff out danger. With Simeone’s men looking lethal on the counter this season, Casemiro’s role on Saturday will be even more crucial.
Toni Kroos (CM) – Kroos keeps the play ticking over and has the ability to carve a team open with an eye-of-the-needle pass. The German will be looking to stamp his authority on the match fairly early on and carve open a stubborn Los Rojiblancos defence. The midfielder’s delivery from set-pieces will be equally important, with Atletico looking vulnerable in this area.
James Rodriguez (AM) – In the summer, it appeared highly unlikely that James would return to Real Madrid, let alone start. Yet, the Colombian’s performances have been very impressive and, as a result, Zidane has continued to show his faith in him. Los Blancos‘ have struggled in recent years to break down teams when not playing at their best, but Rodriguez has proven this season that he has the vision and creativity to do just that.
Gareth Bale (RW) – Bale was another player to be rested in the last match, with Lucas Vazquez coming into the team. Nonetheless, the Welshman has made a flying start to the new season and has been one of Zidane’s best players. The manager will be hoping the winger can carry this impressive form into the Madrid derby.
Eden Hazard (LW) – Although Eden Hazard hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his early performances at the Bernabeu, there is no denying his sensational talent. Vinicius Jr. had an impressive game last time out, but the Belgian has the world-class talent to single handedly change a game and he’ll be looking to do just that it in the Madrid derby.
Karim Benzema (ST) – Benzema has made a strong start to the new season, finding the net five times in five matches for Los Blancos. He has already come up with some important goals this season and will be looking to continue his goalscoring form in the derby.