Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are set to host arch-rivals Real Madrid at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium for the first time. In spite of the home side struggling this season, the arrival of Zinedine Zidane’s two-time Champions League winning side poses a delicious ocassion for the fans.
“We want to win the first ever derby at the Wanda Metropolitano. It’s a very important match for the fans, for the club. It’s a match every player wants to be a part of,” Rojiblancos forward Antoine Griezmann said in a recent interview. But whether the encounter will prove to be as exciting as it appears, still remains doubtful.
It has been an unexpected season for both clubs so far. Simeone’s delay in signing Diego Costa from Chelsea has cost his side in the front line. The recent falling out with Belgian midfielder Yannick Carassco and thigh injury to playmaker Koke has further hurt Atletico’s attacking set-up. Return of both the players to training grounds spell positive signs, but it may prove too little, too late, with the side finding itself one game away from bowing out of Champions League.
Their dominant neighbours have not enjoyed a successful campaign either. A 2-0 defeat against promoted Girona was just one of the many shocks Zidane’s side has received this season. Currently, Real are trailing table-toppers Barcelona by eight points and are only ahead of Atletico on goal difference. Injuries to Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal and goalkeeper Keylor Navas has further exposed the lack of squad depth at Real’s possession. Decision to sell James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and Danilo appears to be hurting the French manager’s side.
Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann both have struggled this season and that has hurt the respective clubs. Both the players are going through goal drought and are garnering massive criticism from fans.
Griezmann has not found the net since scoring a penalty against Chelsea in a Champions League fixture in September. In spite of taking 20 shots on target, Griezmann has failed to score in over 596 minutes of game play. Even the manager appears to be losing faith in his abilities and has often replaced him in league games.
On the other hand, the Portuguese forward, who recently won the FIFA Best Player of the Year award, started the season on a wrong foot, with a five-match ban for allegedly “pushing” an official. His conversion rate of 2.5 is the worst recorded by any goal scorer in Europe’s top 5 leagues. He has found net only once in 690 minutes of game time in La Liga. His slump in form has further raised question marks on whether he deserves to win the Ballon d’Or Trophy this year.
Both the players have something to prove in the derby clash. The two-week hiatus from domestic football may prove to be the ideal break the two needed to freshen up and find some form. The past records suggest that both enjoy playing against each other. While Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Atletico in the home leg of the 2016-17 Champions League semi-final, Griezmann has already scored four times in the past against them.
Fans will hope the two can step it up one for more time for their side, which will further boost their confidence and may change the fortunes of the club for the rest of the season.