Cristiano Ronaldo v The Red & White Wall
As has been frequently stated everywhere in the build-up to this game, Real Madrid have played Atletico Madrid seven times this season and failed to win a single one of them.
More on that later, but surely equally as surprising is the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored two goals in those seven fixtures, muted form by his stellar standards and perhaps hinting at a Diego Simeone masterplan which even the great Portuguese is unable to work out.
The likes of Diego Godin and Miranda will be back again this evening in a bid to stop the idol of the Bernabeu, and if they can keep him out yet again then Atletico will have gone a long way towards sealing semi-final progression.
Jan Oblak v Lightning Striking Twice
That Atletico are even in this position already is largely down to the wonderful first leg performance of their Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The 22-year-old was one of two stoppers that Simeone signed in the summer to replaced Thibaut Courtois – who he reluctantly had to give back to Chelsea – and until recently it was the more experienced ex-Getafe goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya who held the No. 1 shirt, until he was injured in the last round of this competition against Bayer Leverkusen.
Oblak came in, saved a penalty in the victorious shootout and hasn’t looked back since. He was superb in the first leg of this tie at the Vicente Calderon but can he be so again?
Javier Hernandez v Playing From The Start
With both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema ruled out of this clash through injury, Ronaldo has been left as a C without either of his Bs.
What he does have, though, is the C of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who is set to come out of the cold and start for Real in arguably their most important match of the season.
The heat will be on the Mexican then, and after making both his name and career out of being a player who can make in impact from the bench, how that pressure affects him could be a huge aspect of a night when Real are going to need the ‘Little Pea’ to stand tall.
At 27 in the summer, Hernandez can’t go on being a bit-part player forever, and if he’s got his heart set on being a starter somewhere next season then tonight would be a good night to show his quality.
Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid: 10 Vital Statistics
Real Madrid v The Law Of Averages
If you play Real Madrid eight times you are more than likely to lose one of them, right? That is the realisation that Atletico must be feeling tonight as they face an eight-chambered gun which has already fired seven blanks.
Simeone’s side are very, very good and have to be lauded for the giant strides they have made under the popular and hugely in-demand Argentinean coach, but are they good enough to go another game against their great rivals without losing?
Forget the injuries, this will be the toughest of the eight games they’ve played against Real ever since last year’s Champions League final, and like Death stalking several hapless teens in those Final Destination films, you have to think that the law of averages will catch up to them eventually.
Carlo Ancelotti v Diego Simeone
One is 55, the other is 44. One has grey hair, the other’s is jet black. One is only the second manager to win the European Cup on three occasions, and the other’s only European trophy in the 2012 Europa League.
Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone are very different people, but tonight they might find that they are in control of the other’s destiny.
Lose, and there is a real chance that Ancelotti won’t be at the Bernabeu next season, whilst defeat for Simeone might lead him to believe that he’s taken Atletico as far as they can go.
Who blinks first? It promises to be fascinating to find out.
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