Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
Saturday evening’s hotly awaited Spanish capital ‘derbi’ at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has La Liga defending champions Atletico Madrid visiting Champions League holders Real Madrid.
With Xabi Alonso gone and Sami Khedira now injured again, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti looks set to again give Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez extra defensive duties in midfield. Cristiano Ronaldo is set to start after a ‘mini pre-season’ over the last fortnight. Right-back Dani Carvajal is out with a hamstring problem, so Sergio Ramos could move across or Alvaro Arbeloa come in.
Atletico boss Diego Simeone has less selection concerns - his main decision is whether to start new signing Antoine Griezmann or fit-again Arda Turan in support of Mario Mandzukic up front.
Neither team has started the new campaign too well - with Atletico lucky to beat newly promoted Eibar last time out, and Madrid embarrassed 4-2 at Real Sociedad. Atletico look the solider side at the moment - as shown when they battled to a 2-1 win in their season curtain-raising Supercopa win over two legs.
Watch Atletico's 1-0 win over Madrid last month:
What the managers [or captains] say
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti: “The philosophy will not change. The team is there, we are going to look for balance with this team, these players.”
Atletico coach Gabi: “Madrid respect us more now. They know we will always stand up to them. A few years ago it was not like that. This team knows how to play Madrid.”
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has never lost a La Liga game against Atletico [W 16 D 6 L 0], but the 34 year old has still not recovered full confidence following a difficult spell. Expect Atletico to target him on crosses and set-pieces.
New Atletico centre-forward Mandzukic was excellent against Madrid in the Supercopa, showing Diego Costa-like aggression and physicality to get the better of Ramos and Raphael Varane, and also knocking in the winner in the second leg.
Score Prediction: This should be a tight one, with few clear chances at either end. A repeat of the 1-1 in August’s Bernabeu Supercopa game could well happen - available at odds of 7.00
Best Bet: Atletico’s recent record at the Bernabeu is pretty good - two wins and a draw in their last four visits. And the defeat was in a Copa game which Simeone did not prioritise. Odds of 2.23 on draw or away win look tempting.
Barcelona vs Atletic Bilbao
Earlier on Saturday afternoon early La Liga pace-setters Barcelona are at home to in-form Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique all missed internationals through injury last week, but all look fit to start for their club. New starlet Munir is likely to be on the bench, with Pedro and Neymar preferred in attack.
The international break has also caused no new injury headaches for Athletic. Oscar de Marcos had a stomach issue this week, so Andoni Iraola could be preferred at right-back.
Barca have started the season in excellent nick - beating Elche 3-0 with ten men, then nicking a deserved 1-0 at Villarreal.
Athletic looked especially good when overwhelming Napoli in their play-off to make the Champions League group stages. But they’ve been beaten in every La Liga visit to the Camp Nou since 2003/04.
What the managers say
Barca coach Luis Enrique: “This game is vital as Athletic are one of most difficult opponents in La Liga.”
Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde: “We have to try and make it uncomfortable for them. If Barca play as they like at home it is only a matter of time until they score.”
As usual Messi is the key for Barca - his renewed focus and work-rate has rubbed off on his teammates through the first games.
Athletic centre-forward Aritz Aduriz has three goals in his first four 2014/15 games, and a physical style which could trouble Barca’s centre-backs.
Score Prediction: As often happens Athletic will likely put up a fight, but get outclassed in the end. 3-1 to Barca at 11.00
Best Bet: Aduriz scored at the Camp Nou last April, and showed a liking for big stage against Napoli. First goalscorer at 9.00 could happen.
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