Alright!!! The Madrid derby commences yet again, this time in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal. Cristiano Ronaldo stole a march over his rivals with a hat trick in the first leg of this semifinal at the Santiago Bernabeu leaving Atletico with a mountain to climb as Zidane’s men visit the Vicente Calderon on the 11th of May.
Atletico, who trail Real and Barcelona with 10 points in the La Liga, would have to win by a margin they have never achieved in their history. While this may look unachievable on paper, Atletico Madrid aren’t a team that gives up easily. Atletico’s style of play usually does not involve an end-to-end impulse, nor does the team move around as much. This is a tight, defensive unit, possibly the most disciplined team off the ball in the whole of Europe. Star striker Antoine Griezmann would be expected to go for the goal from the first whistle, and not on strategic counterattacks that his teammates so beautifully construct.
Atleti boss Diego Simeone would have to be at his imaginative best in this Champions League semifinal. Considering that his opponents have perhaps one of the world’s most dangerous midfield duo in Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, Simeone would have to either instruct his players to play in a classic 4-4-2 formation, thereby occupying most of the field in their own half, or a 4-3-3, such that Real’s defenders are always kept cautious especially in transition. Yannick Carasco, Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro, or Fernando Torres (depending on how the team decides to play) could play upfront with Gabi, Koke and (hopefully) Nicolas Gaitan providing enough cover in midfield.
While both sides seem well equipped with intelligence and speed in both midfield and attack, things aren’t as green for both Zidane and Simeone as far as the defense department is concerned. Real’s start center back Pepe is still out for this one, while Atletico will be without Jose Gimenez, two important players in their respective teams. Moreover, Real are still without Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane, which means that Brazilian right back Danilo will likely start alongside fourth choice central defender Nacho.
Atletico too are a little short at the back. Diego Godin is out due to suspension, while Jose Gimenez, Junafran, Sime Vrsalijko and defensive midfielder Augusto Fernandez are all out due to injuries. This means that Stevan Savic and French central defender Lucas Hernandez could both start in the heart of defense.
While it does not help the home side that Real Madrid had the opportunity to rest some of their key players against Granada in the La Liga, Simeone could add a few youngsters from Atletico’s B Team as back up for the first team on the pitch.
The chances of the home side winning this Champions League semifinal are high; however overcoming the three-goal deficit for Atletico looks unlikely.
Time and Date: Thursday, 11th May at 12:15 AM (IST), Wednesday, 10th May, 8:45 PM (GMT+2)