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Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid: 5 key battles | La Liga 2021-22

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid square off in the first Madrid derby of the season on Sunday.
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid square off in the first Madrid derby of the season on Sunday.
Shubham Dupare
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Real Madrid will host their arch-rivals Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga on Sunday. The hosts are on a nine-game winning streak across competitions. They are the favourites to win the 228th Madrid derby.

Los Blancos head into this game on a high, having overcome Inter Milan in their midweek Champions League fixture. Goals from Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio ensured a clinical 2-0 win for the record champions.

๐Ÿ‘Š ยก๐‘ฎ๐‘ถ๐‘ณ๐‘ฌ๐‘บ ๐‘ป๐‘ถ๐‘ท ๐Ÿ†š @Atleti!#RealMadridAtleti https://t.co/boXkXrY3YV

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid, who have one of the best defences in the Spanish top flight, have not looked rock-solid at the back this season. They only have the fifth-best defensive record in La Liga after falling to a 2-1 loss at home to lowly Mallorca in their previous outing.

The Merengues, like Madrid, are also through to the Round of 16 in the Champions League. They confirmed their place in the knockouts with a 3-1 win at Porto on the sixth matchday.

Coming back to the Madrid derby, Real Madrid have the better record, and are unbeaten in their last seven meetings against Los Colchoneros. Atletico Madrid last league win at the home of Real Madrid was in 2016.

Nevertheless, the Madrid derby is usually an enticing affair, which should also be the case on Sunday. On that note, here's a look at five key battles that might determine the outcome of the game:


#5 Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) vs Koke (Atletico Madrid)

Toni Kroos ranks first in average passes per game for Real Madrid this season.
Toni Kroos ranks first in average passes per game for Real Madrid this season.

Toni Kroos scored just his third goal across competitions this season against Inter Milan on matchday six.

However, as is usually the case, it was a world-class strike from the edge of the box, and it was a landmark one too. That was Real Madrid's 1000th goal in the European Cup/Champions League, making them the first team to reach the milestone.

1,000 - Toni Kroos has scored Real Madrid's 1,000th European Cup/Champions League goal, making them the first club to reach that landmark total (excl. qualifiers). Grand.

The German pass-master has had an impressive 95.1% pass success rate in the league for Real Madrid this season. He has averaged more passes than any other Real Madrid player in both La Liga and Champions League, averaging roughly 76 passes per 90 across both competitions.

Stopping Kroos from dictating the run of play will be crucial for Atletico Madrid. They will look to do that by counting on captain Koke to step up to the task. While the Spaniard hasn't been at his best thus far, his tackling ability and presence in the middle of the park could be key in keeping Kroos quiet.


#4 Casemiro (Real Madrid) vs Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid)

Casemiro averages more tackles per game than any other Real Madrid player this season.
Casemiro averages more tackles per game than any other Real Madrid player this season.

The Real Madrid midfield trio of Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric have been at the heart of many a memorable win over the years. It is their consistency this term that has helped them have a great outing this season.

Casemiro has been at his best as usual, averaging three tackles per 90 in La Liga. He also has three assists to his name, and has won 1.9 aerial duels per game. His commanding presence provides an effective shield to his back four.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid have lacked creativity in the middle of the park, but Thomas Lemar has shown promise in recent outings. He has three goals and two assists in La Liga, and has registered 1.7 key passes per game. The Atletico Madrid man's quick feet, dribbling skills and pace might help him create chances against Real Madrid.

#3 Eder Militao (Real Madrid) vs Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)

Luis Suarez has a good record against Real Madrid.
Luis Suarez has a good record against Real Madrid.

Real Madrid will be wary of Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez, who has shrugged off an injury scare and is expected to start the Madrid derby. The Uruguayan striker has scored seven league goals this season. More importantly, he has a commendable record against Los Blancos.

He has found the back of the net against Real Madrid 12 times across competitions, and has also picked up five assists. He has scored five times at the Santiago Bernabeu, and will look to add more to that tally on Sunday.

The onus to keep him in check could fall on Eder Militao, who has had more minutes than any other outfield Real Madrid player. He has also taken the role of a key centre-back in his stride.

Miltao has been dominant in the air, winning more aerial duels (2.4 per 90) than any other Real Madrid player. He has also made the most interceptions (1.9 per 90) in the team, and could have a great duel against the more experienced Suarez.


#2 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) vs Geoffrey Kondogbia (Atletico Madrid)

Karim Benzema is leading La Liga's goalscoring and assists charts.
Karim Benzema is leading La Liga's goalscoring and assists charts.

Karim Benzema has been the standout player for Real Madrid this season. He has hit the ground running with 12 goals and seven assists in La Liga. He is fourth in the European Golden Shoe rankings.

Benzema has a decent record against Atletico Madrid, scoring six goals in 36 games against Diego Simeone's men. That's a record he will look to improve, given his imperious form at the moment.

Karim Benzema has overtaken Thierry Henry to become the highest-scoring French player in club history ๐ŸŒŸ https://t.co/NROmDNswul

With both his first-choice centre-backs ruled out with injuries, Simeone will have to field Geoffrey Kondogbia as a make-shift defender for this game.

The defensive midfielder can play as a centre-back. He has impressed with his tackling prowess (2.4 per 90), but has come up short in aerial duels. His physical presence might help in close duels, but he might be beaten in the air by Benzema and co.


#1 Vinicius Jr. (Real Madrid) vs Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid)

Vinicius Junior is having the best season of his Real Madrid career.
Vinicius Junior is having the best season of his Real Madrid career.

Real Madrid boast the best attack in Spain, thanks to the exploits in front of goal by Benzema and Vinicius Jr. The young Brazilian has finally found his feet at the club, oozing confidence every time he has stepped up this season.

He has scored ten goals in La Liga, with only Benzema scoring more. Vinicius has also bagged two assists thus far, in what has been a career-best season for Real Madrid. His impressive performances helped him win the La Liga Player of the Month award in November.

Our starboy Vinicius Jr is La Liga's player of the month for November. Congratulations, @vinijr โญ๏ธ https://t.co/6pHAhQxedP

Atletico Madrid's defensive injury crisis might help Vinicius add more goals to his tally against the versatile Marcos Llorente on the flanks. Llorente has started on the right flank in the last two games in the absence of first-choice full-back Kieran Trippier.

Vinicius Junior is likely to come out on top. However, Llorente has quick turn of pace and will hope to keep the Brazilian's darting runs into the Atletico Madrid box in check on Sunday.

Edited by Bhargav
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