Real Madrid travel to the home of their capital rivals Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday night.
“I ran into Carlito in a restaurant,” Oscar ‘El Profe’ Ortega, Atletico’s long-serving fitness coach, remembered. “A great guy. We started to talk and he says: ‘Profe, don’t say anything else. You get the league, we get the Champions League.’ A man with a lot of experience.”
Carlo Ancelotti has enjoyed some great nights against Atletico Madrid – chief among them was that 2014 final which earned Real their tenth European Cup. Here’s the XI Carlito may field in a bid for more derby success.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – A former darling of Atletico, the Rojiblanco title winner had toy rats thrown at him during a 2019 derby after crossing the divide.
RB: Dani Carvajal – The Real youth team product has beaten their red and white rivals more often than any other club in his senior career (11 wins).
CB: Antonio Rudiger – “Playing in the cages taught me you either eat or you get eaten,” Rudiger revealed when reminiscing about his childhood in Berlin. Although he took that lesson a little too literally when he “nibbled” Paul Pogba at Euro 2020.
CB: David Alaba – At the end of his breakthrough season for Bayern Munich, still a teenager at the time, Alaba stepped up to take and score his team’s first penalty in the shootout against Real Madrid in the 2012 Champions League semi-finals. A decade later, he was hoisting aloft the big-eared trophy with Los Blancos.
LB: Ferland Mendy – After a rare spot on the bench in midweek, Mendy should be fresh for the derby.
CM: Luka Modric – Just five years before he broke Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s stranglehold on the Ballon d’Or, Modric was voted as La Liga’s worst signing of the season after his debut campaign in 2012/13, pipping Barcelona’s Alex Song.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – The imposing 6’2 midfielder is often lauded for his physical attributes by Ancelotti was quick to point out that “his intelligence has enabled him to sign for Real Madrid“.
CM: Toni Kroos – Across eight years on the white half of Madrid, Kroos has only ever been involved in one victory away to Atletico (D6 L5).
RW: Federico Valverde – “I told Valverde that if he didn’t score at least ten goals this season, I will tear up my coaching license and leave,” Ancelotti declared. The Uruguayan is currently on a career-high three across all competitions.
ST: Rodrygo – As an 18-year-old, Rodrygo scored just 94 seconds into his Real Madrid debut, narrowly short of the record set by his compatriot Ronaldo at 64 seconds.
LW: Vinicius Junior – Last weekend Mallorca’s manager Javier Aguirre took a robust approach to dealing with Vinicius. “Hit him, hit him,” the coach reportedly shouted. Fortunately, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid would never succumb to such tactics.