The road to Cardiff continues with Real Madrid taking on crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final. Madrid derbies in the Champions League have become a common occurrence lately, with the two Madrid clubs meeting each other three times in the last three Champions League campaigns, twice in the final and once in the quarter-final. Real Madrid are the only club to knock out Atletico Madrid in the last three Champions League seasons and will be looking to do so for a fourth consecutive time, whereas Atleti will be even hungrier for revenge.
Real Madrid head into the match with sky high confidence. Despite losing El Clasico, they showed extraordinary mental and physical strength vs Bayern Munich, going down 1-0/0-1 in both legs and coming out as winners (1-2: first leg, 4-2: second leg). Despite their 6-3 aggregate victory vs Bayern that surprised many fans, Zidane will undoubtedly ground the players and remind them that nothing has been won yet, as he has done several times before this season.
Over the course of April Real Madrid once again showed how weak and fragile they are defensively, conceding a total of 14 goals in one month! However, the strength the club has got upfront has overshadowed this problem, scoring a total of 24 goals in the month of April. However, Real Madrid have met Atletico twice this season and have had very little problems defending against the Rojiblancos, 3-0 at the Vincente Calderon and 1-1 and the Bernabeu (conceding a fatal goal due to a lapse of concentration from the back four).
Simeone’s men are entering the first leg with major defensive absentees: Juanfran, Vrsaljko and Gimenez. Zidane’s men will encounter Atletico without Gareth Bale and Pepe. While Atletico supporters will be frustrated about their luck, Real Madrid fans will be content with Bale missing the match as Isco or Asensio will fill the void and both have showed that they can make just as much of an impact as Bale can, especially the former having already had a stellar performance vs Atletico Madrid in the 0-3 Real Madrid derby win earlier this season.
Predicted lineup: – Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo.
It will be a very close-contested tie no doubt and very small details will decide this semi-final fixture, however Real Madrid’s attacking strength especially Marcelo and Carvajal, plus their squad depth makes me fancy them to qualify to the Champions League final.
Prediction: First leg at the Bernabeu: 1-0, second leg at the Calderon 1-2.
Photo Credit: Reuters