Just three points separate the two Madrid sides at the top of the table, albeit Atléti could extend their lead to six if they win their game in hand. A draw for Barcelona against surprise-of-the-season Cádiz, means the Catalans are now just eight back of Atlético Madrid too, in third place.
Just a few weeks ago, Los Rojiblancos enjoyed a ten-point lead at the top of the table with two games in hand. However, Atléti’s stalwart defence has begun to fail them and the team has won just one of their past four matches, including their first home loss of the campaign on Saturday against Levante.
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After Dream Start, Atlético Madrid Lose Steam
After an incredible start to the season, in which they conceded five goals in their first 16 matches, Los Rojiblancos have let in ten in their last seven matches and not kept a clean sheet since January 12.
Compounding their defensive woes, star centre-back José María Giménez has suffered a thigh injury and will miss their Champions League clash against Chelsea, which will now be played in Bucharest. The Uruguayan is also expected to miss next weekend’s match against sixth-place Villareal.
The injury to Giménez is the latest setback for Diego Simeone, who is also without right-back Kieran Trippier due to suspension, central midfielder Héctor Herrera and winger Yannick Carrasco.
Despite all this, Simeone remains confident and said after his side’s 2-0 loss to Levante that the team had earned the right to suffer a few bad results. He also pointed out that Frenchman Thomas Lemar and Portuguese starlet João Félix were also getting back into form.
Atléti will hope that they can bring their sustained stumble to an end before their March 7 match against Real Madrid. Los Blancos have been in formidable form of late, winning five of their last six matches while conceding just three goals.
However, Zinédine Zidane’s men have their own injury problems. After sustaining an injury in training on February 19, star striker Karim Benzema added his name to the injury list. It is unknown when he will return.
Benzema joins the list of high-profile stars, including centre-back Sergio Ramos, winger Eden Hazard and right-back Dani Carvajal, who are all expected to miss the clash against Atléti.
The good news for Real is that Uruguayan midfielder Fede Valverde is expected to return soon along with Brazilian left-back Marcelo.
Real Keep Finding A Way to Win Ahead of Madrid Derby
Even with their notable absence of attackers, Real Madrid have continued to find a way to score, something Atléti have not been as good at when talisman Luis Suárez is unable to find the back of the net.
Suárez has scored more than one-third of the team’s league goals but has not done so since the side’s 2-2 draw with Celta de Vigo on February 8.
Meanwhile, in Saturday’s 1-0 away win against Real Valladolid, Casemiro came through for Real Madrid to score in the second half.
Immediately after the match, the Brazilian holding midfielder said Los Blancos have what it takes to come back and win their second league title in a row, which would be the first time the side have done so since 2006/07 and 2007/08.
“It’s not just because Atlético Madrid lost. We believe [we can win] the league,” Casemiro told ESPN reporters. “I think there are still 42 points left, that’s a lot of points. We know there’s a lot of league left. We know it’s difficult, but we believe in the league.”