Afternoon all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga commentary continues from the Bernabeu as Real Madrid welcome Atletico Madrid
in the Madrid derby. Just one point and one position separate the two capital rivals in the La Liga table, with Atletico sitting second on 55 points and Real Madrid occupying third on 54. Barcelona are currently eight points clear at the top of the division and this is the perfect match for the Catalan side – at least one of their title rivals will drop points this afternoon!
This afternoon will be the 212th meeting between Madrid rivals Real Madrid and Atletico in all competitions. Real Madrid have recorded 107 wins, Atletico 53, while the further 51 matches have finished level. In La Liga, Real Madrid have won 85 of their 157 meetings, with Atletico claiming all the points on 38 occasions. It would be fair to say that it has been a fixture dominated by Los Blancos throughout history, but Atletico are currently on a strong run of form against their rivals.
Indeed, Real Madrid have not beaten Atletico in any of their last five league games – losing three times in the process. Last season, Atletico won both matches in La Liga – recording a 2-1 win in this stadium and also thrashing their rivals 4-0 at the Vicente Calderon. The pair have also already met in the Calderon this season and the points were shared in an entertaining 1-1 draw back in October.
Real Madrid overcame Atletico in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, however, and also beat their capital rivals in the 2014 European Cup final to claim the trophy. Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from the Bernabeu...
REAL: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Danilo; Modric, Kroos, Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema, James
ATLETI: Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Luis; Gabi, Koke, Augusto; Saul, Torres, Griezmann
As confirmed by Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane in his pre-match press conference, Marcelo is out of action with a calf problem, meaning that there is a start at left-back for Brazilian defender Danilo. Gareth Bale and Pepe also remain on the sidelines for Los Blancos, meaning that the XI almost picks itself at the moment. Isco will start in the middle of midfield, while James Rodriguez joins Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the final third, with the latter recovering from a hip problem to start.
As for Atletico, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Tiago and Stefan Savic all miss out, but Augusto Fernandez has returned from a knee problem to start in the middle of the park. Jose Gimenez is given the nod at centre-back alongside Diego Godin, while Fernando Torres is selected ahead of Luciano Vietto in the final third. Antoine Griezmann
also starts despite five league games without a goal.
So there we have it. The two teams are in and we are now little under 40 minutes from kickoff on this mild afternoon in Madrid. This match will see the meeting of the best attack in the league and the best defence. Real Madrid have hit 71 goals in Spain's top flight this season, while Atletico have only conceded 11 times, which is the joint-best defensive record across the top five European leagues.
Real Madrid have actually won 17 of their last 19 league matches at home to capital opposition, while the Whites have been victorious in their last seven league games at the Bernabeu – scoring an average of just over five goals per game. That form, however, has not been enough to close down Barcelona at the summit. Indeed, with 13 matches remaining, Real Madrid have a nine-point gap to make up.
Zidane's side have not actually been beaten in any competition since losing 1-0 at Villarreal in the league on December 13, but a 1-1 draw at Malaga last weekend really harmed their title challenge. It is difficult to be too critical of their form having won 16 of their 25 league games this season, but 20 league wins for Barcelona has seen them charge towards the title once again.
At the very least, Real Madrid will be expected to finish above Atletico in La Liga and seriously challenge for the Champions League once again. The Spanish outfit recorded a 2-0 victory at Roma in the first leg of their last-16 clash on February 17 and you sense that they already have more than one foot in the quarter-finals as they seek an 11th European Cup. It cannot be a trophyless campaign.
Realistically, Real Madrid cannot afford to drop another point between now and the end of the season if they are to stand a chance of catching Barcelona. While this is a tough task against Atletico, Zidane will look at an upcoming fixture list which includes matches against Levante, Celta Vigo and Las Palmas still believing in his team's chances. The phrase must-win is used too often, but that is the case here.
As for Atletico, they will enter the match off the back of a 0-0 draw away to Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League clash on Wednesday. Real Madrid have had a free week to prepare for this match, but it is a pretty fast turnaround for Diego Simeone, who must find a way to keep his squad fresh and free from injuries in the final months of the campaign.
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Another impressive La Liga season has seen Atletico occupy second spot at this stage, but they are eight points behind Barcelona and like Real Madrid, will find it very difficult to overtake Luis Enrique's team. Atletico will also enter this match off the back of a draw in the league last weekend, with the capital side being held to a 0-0 at home by fourth-place Villarreal, who are also having a fine season.
As mentioned, Atletico have only conceded 11 times in the league this season, which is remarkable, but what is more extraordinary is their lack of goals down the other end. Simeone's side have only netted 35 times in their 25 league games this term, which is 36 fewer than Real Madrid and 32 less than Barcelona. Even the likes of Eibar and Celta Vigo have out-scored Atletico in the league.
Atletico's away record in the league this season has been very strong, however, recording nine wins from their 13 matches and only losing three times. They have also only shipped five goals on their travels and will be confident of making it six games unbeaten against Real Madrid in the league. In fact, Atletico have actually gone 180 minutes of La Liga football without conceding a single shot on target!
After this match, Atletico will welcome Real Sociedad on March 1, before travelling to an improving Valencia next weekend. Then comes a home game against Deportivo La Coruna before the second leg of their last-16 European tie with PSV Eindhoven. This match marks the start of a very important period of fixtures for both teams. Right, just about time for my pre-match prediction here...
... PREDICTION! I actually fancy Real Madrid here, just. Atletico, as they always do, will make it awkward for the home team, but I look at the two teams and I just think that Real Madrid have enough to claim a narrow 2-1 victory. It is the type of match where the first goal could be decisive.
A reminder of the two teams for this match...
REAL: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Danilo; Modric, Kroos, Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema, James
ATLETI: Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Luis; Gabi, Koke, Augusto; Saul, Torres, Griezmann
KICKOFF! Here we go then - the pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Just about time for the football then! It is a massive football match and as expected, this place is electric. It is Atletico that get the first 45 minutes underway here...
... it would be fair to say that Barcelona supporters will be following this match and hoping for a draw, which would be the perfect outcome. It has been a pretty lively start and Ronaldo has already had an attempt for the home side, but his strike from distance was always moving wide of the post.
Possession football from Real Madrid inside the opening four minutes, but Atletico, as expected, are nice and tight at the back. Fernando Torres has also put himself about down the other end!
Real Madrid look very fired-up for this match, Ronaldo in particular, who has chased everything down the left. The home supporters are in fine voice and the ball is zipping around the park here.
Danilo drives forward before finding Ronaldo, who delivers a cross towards Benzema, but Luis is on hand to clear after Godin had made first contact. High-tempo opening six minutes in the capital.
The match has just started to settle in the last minute or two, with Atletico allowing themselves a period of possession. Real Madrid have been the more dominant in the final third, but neither goalkeeper has been worked at the Bernabeu thus far. Interesting tactical battle at the moment here.
Koke is almost playing as a left winger for Atletico at the moment, with the Spaniard pushing onto Carvajal in a wide position. Juanfran attempts to find Fernando Torres in the Real Madrid box with a clever cross, but Varane just manages to make contact first and clear behind for an Atletico set piece.
Fernandez strikes one from outside the Real Madrid box, but his effort is wide of the post.
Nervy moment for Navas as the Real Madrid goalkeeper attempts to control the ball with his chest and the Costa Rican just manages to clear as Fernando Torres chases it down!
Not an awful lot to report in terms of chances in the last few minutes, with the referee forced to intervene following a couple of late challenges. Real Madrid, however, remain on the front foot.
Pass, pass, pass from Real Madrid as they attempt to work that yard of space to create a chance, but Atletico are so well-drilled and have been able to deal with the pressure thus far in Madrid.
CLOSE! The first real chance of the match falls to Real Madrid as Kroos picks out the head of Varane from a super free kick, but the centre-back's header is just over the crossbar!
In truth, the pattern of this opening 21 minutes has not been a surprise. Atletico are sitting deep, absorbing the danger and threatening on the counter-attack. Real Madrid have had plenty of the possession, but have been unable to find that elusive pass thus far. Still all square at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo fires harmlessly wide of the Atletico post from some 25 yards.
The referee has kept his cards in his pocket in the opening 24 minutes, but the clumsy challenges are starting to add up and the first booking might not be too far away! Real Madrid continue to pass and probe in the final third, but Atletico continue to sit in, absorb and then break down the field.
Fernando Torres breaks through on goal for Atletico, but the offside flag was correctly raised.
Benzema puts a pretty nasty challenge in on Godin, which leaves the centre-back on the deck. No booking, but the Atletico defender does not appear too comfortable. He's a tough man though.
Fernando Torres has had bits and pieces for Atletico in the opening 28 minutes and the Atletico striker manages to find a yard of space inside the Real Madrid box, but his effort is blocked. Real Madrid are back down the other end, but Koke is on hand to win a free kick for his team.
The home supporters remain in good voice here, but there has been the odd groan when a pass has been cut out in the final third. Still goalless, still Real Madrid in control of the possession.
BOOKING! Godin (Atletico) is booked for pulling Benzema to the deck.
SAVE! Ronaldo strikes the resulting free kick from distance and it brings a super save from Oblak. Benzema picks up the rebound inside the box, but his effort is narrowly wide of the post!
Real Madrid have started to raise the tempo in the last couple of minutes. They are moving the ball quicker and Atletico are having to work an awful lot harder to keep the score at 0-0 here.
Little under 10 minutes of the first period remaining and Real Madrid are very much on top at the moment as they continue to move the ball in the final third. Atletico have been strong at the back, but have not yet had a single shot on target. We are entering a vital stage late in the first half!
BOOKING! Luis (Atletico) is booked for a late tackle on Modric.
Atletico had two players sent off - Godin and Luis - when they last visited Barcelona and those two defenders are now on yellow cards in this match and will need to be careful. James has also been chopped down by Gabi and a booking might well arrive for the skipper once the ball goes out!
SAVE! Comfortably Atletico's best chance of the match as Griezmann finds time and space outside the Real Madrid box, but his effort is brilliantly saved by Navas for a corner!
SAVE! Navas then gets down to keep out a low strike from Koke as Atletico threaten!
As it stands, this is the perfect result for Barcelona. Atletico and Real Madrid would remain second and third respectively and Barcelona would be seven clear at the summit with a game in hand, which is at home to Sevilla tomorrow night. Little over one minute of the first period to play here.
HALF-TIME: Real Madrid 0-0 Atletico
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two capital rivals level at 0-0. Both have had opportunities to break the deadlock, but clear chances have been few and far between. As it stands, Atletico and Real Madrid would remain second and third respectively in the table.
STATS! Real Madrid have dominated the possession with 67%, but just one of their seven attempts tested Oblak - a free kick from Ronaldo. As for Atletico, they hit the target with two of their five attempts in that first period. Two bookings, meanwhile, with Godin and Luis both carded.
BENCH WATCH! Real Madrid have 18-year-old striker Borja Mayoral on their bench this afternoon, in addition to Jese Rodriguez and Lucas Vasquez. Atletico, meanwhile, have attacking options in the shape of Angel Correa, Oliver Torres and Luciano Vietto. Plenty of talent in both benches!
RESTART! Here we go then - both sets of players re-join us on the pitch for the second period. Will we have a breakthrough at the Bernabeu? It is the home side that resume the action here...
... REAL MADRID SUB! Borja Mayoral replaces Benzema at the break.
What a massive occasion this is for Mayoral, who has been given a vote of confidence by Zidane this week. It has been a bright start to the second period from Real Madrid as they press forward.
CHANCE! Golden chance for the home side as Ronaldo breaks into the Atletico box, but his low strike is just wide of the far post. Should really be 1-0 to Real Madrid!
You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - will be vital in this match. Real Madrid have been firmly on the attack since the restart, but Atletico are always a danger on the counter attack. It might well be that Simeone looks to Luciano Vietto as the match develops here.
GOAL! Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico (Griezmann)
Oh my word what a goal! Atletico make the breakthrough at the Bernabeu as Griezmann plays a super pass into Luis, who returns the favour and the Frenchman fires into the bottom corner!
That strike for the Frenchman has ended a run of five league games without a goal! Real Madrid now need to respond and Zidane is doing his best on the touchline to keep the intensity high!
REAL MADRID SUB! Second change for Real Madrid as Lucas replaces James.
Real Madrid need one of their big players to step forward in the final 30 minutes and change the outcome of this match. Ronaldo has looked the most likely, but the likes of Modric and Isco need to get hold of this game. At the moment, it is actually pretty comfortable for Atletico at the Bernabeu.
You still fancy that Real Madrid have a goal or two in them this afternoon, but that is easier said than done against this Atletico defence, which is just so impressive. It is almost impossible to find a way through and the work that must go into this on the training ground is quite incredible.
BOOKING! Lucas (Real Madrid) is booked for a late challenge on Koke.
Another aimless cross is delivered into the Atletico box and Oblak is on hand to claim.
It is obvious that Real Madrid are missing Gareth Bale and now Benzema, but there should still be enough quality in this team to find a goal in the final 25 minutes or so here. Atletico, however, just cannot be broken down and Fernando Torres is still full of running in the final third of the field.
CHANCE! Saul goes through one-on-one with Navas, but the Real Madrid stopper makes the save! That would have been goodnight to Real Madrid in this match!
SAVE! Ronaldo heads towards goal, but Oblak drops to make the save!
REAL MADRID SUB! Jese Rodriguez replaces Isco for the home team.
Little under 20 minutes for Real Madrid to save themselves from another home defeat to Atletico. You still get the feeling that there is another goal in this match and Real Madrid remain on the front foot. Lucas again delivers a dangerous cross into Jese, but Atletico scramble the danger clear!
BOOKING! Gimenez (Atletico) is booked for a late challenge on Mayoral.
The home supporters are doing their best to raise their team and the players are responding, but the pattern is still the same - Atletico sitting deep and defending in plenty of numbers.
Danilo goes down inside the Atletico box under pressure from Gabi, but the referee is just not interested and points for a goal kick. Still 1-0 to the visitors with 77 minutes on the clock here.
ATLETICO SUB! Fernandez is replaced by Kranevitter for the away side.
Ronaldo shifts past three players before delivering, but his cross is too strong and Atletico can resume with a goal kick. Little over 10 minutes remaining and the away side still lead here.
ATLETICO SUB! Correa replaces Fernando Torres for Atletico.
Godin and Gimenez have both been sensational at the heart of the Atletico defence this afternoon and the former steps across to clear ahead of Ronaldo as the pressure continues to build.
Ronaldo once again rises highest inside the box, but again, it is comfortable for Oblak.
Griezmann hammers one into the stands and a few more seconds pass at the Bernabeu.
Varane is crowded out inside the Atletico box, before Oblak collects a long cross from Carvajal. Real Madrid have resulted to long balls, which is playing into the hands of the away side here.
CLOSE! Danilo collects a super pass from Jese before attempting to pick out the bottom corner, but the full-back's effort was always moving just wide of the post!
We are into the first and three additional minutes in this match.
BOOKING! Correa (Atletico) is booked after clashing with Danilo.
A long ball is pumped into the Atletico box once again and once again, Godin clears!
BOOKING! Ramos (Real Madrid) is booked for a poor challenge on Gabi.
The home supporters have seen enough as the stands continue to empty here!
FULL-TIME: Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico
So there we have it! Incredible scenes at the Bernabeu as Atletico celebrate a 1-0 win over Real Madrid to make it six league games unbeaten against their capital rivals. Safe to say that the home supporters are not too pleased, but Griezmann's second-half effort was the difference here. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action once again. Until next time!