This Saturday, Real Madrid head to the Wanda Metropolitano for a Madrid derby against Atletico that has a more interesting narrative than usual.

To label a game in mid-November as a ‘must win’ is odd to say the least, but for Los Blancos and their Rojiblanco counterparts, that’s exactly what it’s become.

Both have title aspirations and both, at this point, are eight points behind leaders Barcelona. Lose another game and that’s a potential 11-point deficit, should the Catalans beat Leganes earlier in the day.

The Draw Is Not An Option

No team in La Liga has ever come back from a points gap that wide to be crowned champions, so if the vanquished manager says that ‘there’s still time’ or ‘we’re not worried’ etc. post-match, treat it with the contempt it deserves.

Aside from the bragging rights that always accompany this fixture, make no mistake, this one really matters.

We’re also likely to see both teams going at it hammer and tongs for the entire 90 minutes because a draw doesn’t suit either side.

Leganes won’t be an easy game to negotiate for Ernesto Valverde’s high-fliers but even if they were to lose, a draw at the Wanda would still keep the blaugrana seven points ahead of both Madrid sides. That would stretch to 10 points if the match at Butarque goes with the form book.

Such a yawning chasm at this stage of the season is the chief reason why both Zinedine Zidane and Diego Simeone will be disappointed with their teams’ own start to the 2017/18 campaign.

 

Before the season began, the talk in football circles was centred around who actually could stop Real Madrid from winning the lot. Even an unbeaten season was mooted as achievable, but just 11 games in, reality has bitten hard at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Isco To the Rescue?

Gareth Bale, out of this match because of another injury (his 24th since signing for Real), Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have only four La Liga goals between them.

Never has there been a better reflection of a set of players believing their own hype and it’s catching too.

Only Isco can genuinely emerge with credit from a disastrous few months for the club.

Atleti probably need the victory more than their visitors with a surprising Champions League exit almost certainly assured, and arguably the hosts would have preferred this game to be at the Bernabeu.

Many of Simeone’s charges have espoused that the Wanda still feels like a neutral venue, and it doesn’t have quite the same cachet – yet – as the Vicente Calderon.

Antoine Griezmann, another who has struggled for goals this season, has already hit two at the venue, and he’ll be hoping that a third won’t be long in coming. The Frenchman will spearhead a 4-4-2 formation for Atleti, and, thanks to Bale’s latest problem, Zidane will probably have to settle for the same, rather than his preferred 4-3-3.

Indeed, the lack of a settled side because of injuries, and thus, no continuity in formation, can possibly be blamed for the surprising nature of Real’s start.

Whatever the reasons, the time for talking is over and there is business to attend to.

Seconds out…

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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