Having accepted that they were far from their best in their controversial win over Elche in midweek, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is determined for his side to take the chance to leapfrog local rivals Ateltico Madrid when the pair meet at the Bernabeu on Saturday. There has been much talk about the award of an injury-time penalty that allowed Madrid to beat the newly promoted Elche, but another less than fluid performance from Ancelotti’s men has also been in focus.
"The group are very motivated,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “We've spoken about the match in Elche and now we are fully concentrated on the derby. Atletico are two points in front and we have a great opportunity to go ahead. We have to take it. I'm happy with the professionalism of the players. Occasionally it can happen that you do not play well and it is important to be self-critical and look forward to the next match.”
Ancelotti will have Gareth Bale available to make his home debut on Saturday, after a thigh injury ruled him out against Getafe last week. In other team news, Fabio Coentrao played for the first time this season in the win at Elche, but fellow left-back Marcelo remains on the sidelines.
Ateltico have started the season with six straight wins to get the early edge on Los Blancos. But, while Ancelotti accepts that his side’s next opponents are physically stronger, he believes that the greater quality still rests with his men. And that is a sentiment shared by his opposite number, Diego Simeone.
"Real Madrid is better than us and has a fantastic squad, so we'll have to give 110%,” he said, reports Marca. “There is one team that has top players who can pop up to make the difference at any given moment, which is very difficult to prepare for. I expect Real Madrid to have the ball.”
After a 14-year drought, Atletico finally scored a victory over their local rivals in the most memorable circumstances in May. Heading into the Copa del Rey final in the Bernabeu, Atletico secured a 2-1 extra time win to take home the trophy. And Simeone believes that the win has at least eradicated the psychological barrier when going up against their more-illustrious neighbors.
“Winning the biggest match of them all allowed us to bury a lot of demons," he said. "But all that counts for nothing on Saturday, which we go into with a lot of hard work under our belt and raring to do well. I don't anticipate it being the same sort of game.”
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao
M: Khedira, Modric
Di Maria, Isco, Ronaldo
Atletico Madrid (probable)
D: Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis
M: Suarez, Gabi
Costa, Koke, Turan
Prediction: Ancelotti faces a dilemma over whether to select Bale from the start. It would be a massively bold move to throw him into the lineup after such little action in recent months in a game as big as this one. There is also the fact that Angel di Maria provides more balance to the team, which could be crucial in dealing with Atletico’s counter attacks.
There will no surprise in the way Atletico will play. Simeone’s side showed in the Copa del Rey final and in the two-legged Supercup against Barcelona last month what a difficult side they can be to beat when they play on the break and harness their phenomenal work rate. The in-form Diego Costa is liable to cause problems if he starts on the right as he did against Barcelona, while Arda Turan could also be a major menace.
Both managers are right that Real has more quality, but Atletico are the more coherent team right now and, with the psychological barrier obliterated, they should come away with a draw.
Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Where to watch: The Madrid derby will kick-off at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.