Madrid, April 13: Real Madrid visit Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon for the fourth, but perhaps the most important, time this season as the two city neighbours meet in the quarter-fil of the Champions League.
Tuesday’s game, which is a repeat of last season’s fil that Real Madrid won in dramatic fashion with an injury time equaliser from Sergio Ramos, will be the seventh time the two sides have met this season. Given that they also played each other five times in the 2013-14 campaign, it is probably fair to say Real and Atletico have few secrets to hide from each other in styles of play and with both teams at more or less full strength, there are likely to be few tactical surprises.
So far, this season has been Atletico’s given that they beat Real Madrid home and away in La Liga, inflicting a damaging 4-0 defeat on Real at the Vicente Calderon. They also defeated their neighbours on away goals to win the Spanish Supercup and knocked Real Madrid out of the King’s Cup at the start of the year.
However, nobody in Madrid believes that what has gone before will have much relevance in the Champions League and Real travel across town with a clean slate, but most importantly with all their players available and close to their peak condition.
Carlo Ancelotti was able to rest key players in his side’s win against Eibar on Saturday while Gareth Bale has trained after missing that game with a foot injury.
The only questions over Ancelotti’s selection is whether Bale, James or Isco will get the nod or whether Pepe, who played 30 minutes at the weekend, will be risked ahead of Rafael Varene. Atletico, meanwhile, couldn’t rest players for their visit to Malaga and Diego Simeone’s side had to dig deep for a 2-2 draw. So tiredness could be more of a factor with Simeone’s men, who also have a doubt over the fitness of striker Mario Mandzukic, who was such a handful for the Real defence in his side’s league win.
If Mandzukic fails to recover, Raul Garcia could well get the chance to use his physical presence to unsettle the visitors. There will be a full house and an incredible atmosphere at the Calderon but with two sides that know each other so well don’t expect the tie to be decided until next week’s return leg at the Santiago Berbeu. IANS