Necessity versus opulence

Carlo Ancelotti, coach of Real Madrid. / Juanjo Martin (Efe)

Day 35

Atlético, who will not make a corridor for the champion, is playing to be in the next Champions League against a Real Madrid focused on the assault on the 'fourteenth'

Oscar Bellot

The sensations, dynamics and demands with which Atlético and Real Madrid attend this Sunday's fight at the Wanda Metropolitano could hardly be more divergent. The locals, who have only added four of the last twelve points in the competition, have barely scored two goals in the previous four days and feel the breath of Betis on their necks, need victory in their rushed race to be in the next edition of the Champions. The visitors, on the other hand, arrive at the derby mounted on the crest of the wave after fastening their thirty-fifth League title last weekend and sealing their presence in the final of the continental competition on Wednesday in another epic night that has triggered the euphoria in Chamartín. It will be the derby of necessity against opulence.

Consumed by their predicament, Cholo Simeone's soldiery appears at a meeting in which the rojiblanco side urgently requires victory to straighten the course and raise morale, downcast by a terrible run of results that has put Atlético at serious risk of miss the Champions train. Staying out of the top four in the domestic championship would be a tremendous sporting blow for a team that was champion last year and started as the favorite to reissue the alirón in the current one, after retaining its main figures last summer and reinforcing itself well in the market with the arrivals of Rodrigo de Paul and Antoine Griezmann. But it would also represent an economic cataclysm that will force the project to be recalibrated, threatening the continuity of some of its pillars and putting Simeone himself in the trigger after eleven seasons at the helm of the mattress ship.

“We are at a decisive moment of the season. There are four finals left of those fourteen that remained of the League of fourteen. We will face the derby with desire, illusion and enthusiasm. And try to avoid everything that is being talked about around us. The only thing that interests us is the result," Cholo said the day before, who justified the club's decision not to make the irreconcilable neighbor of the capital a corridor with the argument that the obligation to echo the feelings of the red and white parish is above the tribute to the champion. «Congratulate Real Madrid, the footballers, the coaching staff, because they have done a great job. We have respect for Madrid, but more for our people," said the Argentine.

Simeone, who demanded a "strong, concentrated and competitive" Atlético, knows that Real Madrid always visits the rojiblanco fiefdom with bloodshot eyes, even if he arrives at the appointment devoid of emergencies and with the focus on the final of Paris on May 28, which will make Carlo Ancelotti manage the efforts of his regulars so that they arrive in optimal condition for the duel with Liverpool. Hence, he does not trust the rotations of his counterpart. «The structure is not going to change, the way of playing. The coach is a great coach, with very clear ideas. Whoever plays will maintain the structure. The names vary but not the proposal », he argued.

The Atlético coach has Joao Félix and Lemar out due to injury, as well as Mario Hermoso, due to suspension. He will be able to count, on the other hand, on Reinildo, whose punishment was lifted by the Appeal for the yellow card he saw last weekend in San Mamés. One of his main challenges is to recover his offensive fang and everything indicates that he will bet on Cunha as a reference up front.

Revalidated for Lunin

On the visiting side, preparation for the derby was preceded by the two days off that Ancelotti granted his players as a well-deserved reward for the
amazing comeback against Manchester City, which was held until late at night on Wednesday. There was room for jubilation before going back to work and reviewing the war report. Militao and Benzema, who came out of the continental fray touched, trained without problems and entered a call with six absences: Hazard, Bale, Isco, Marcelo, Alaba and Ceballos.

Ancelotti advanced Lunin's presence under the sticks and can afford to rest several of his Praetorians, although he made it clear that he will have a fully competitive eleven in order to maintain the integrity of the tournament and avoid a drop in tension in the three weeks that remain to launch the assault on the 'fourteenth'. «These four league games are good for us because we can maintain the dynamics and rhythm of the game. We are going to respect the competition and play against teams that play a lot. We have to respect this shirt and we are going to give our best », he specified.

Likely lineups

  • Athletic:
    Oblak, Vrsaljko, Savic, Giménez, Reinildo, Marcos Llorente, Kondogbia, Koke, Carrasco, Correa and Cunha.

  • Real Madrid:
    Lunin, Lucas Vázquez, Militao, Vallejo, Nacho, Casemiro, Camavinga, Kroos, Asensio, Mariano and Rodrygo.

  • Referee:
    Soto Grado (Riojano Committee).

  • Time:
    9:00 p.m.

  • Stadium:
    Wanda Metropolitan.

  • TV:
    Movistar LaLiga.

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