EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over Tuesday’s Champions League tussle between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid | Tuesday 19:45 | BT Sport
Cross-city rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid meet in the Champions League knockout phase for the fourth season in succession with the capital clubs battling it out for a place in Cardiff’s showpiece final next month.
Underdogs Atleti were winless against their neighbours during a 14-year spell between 1999 and 2013 but the arrival of Diego Simeone at the Vicente Calderon has seen Los Colchoneros rediscover their competitive edge in this encounter.
Since 2013/14 Atletico Madrid have W6-D7-L5 in 18 meetings against Los Blancos and in 12 of those fixtures, Real have scored once or not at all. So this trip will hold no fear for Simeone’s battle-hardened squad.
But Los Colchoneros will need to overcome the mental barrier of three agonising Champions League losses to the side from the north of the city. Indeed, Real Madrid are the only side to have knocked Simeone’s side out of this tournament since 2013.
Are Los Rojiblancos ready to oust their rivals? I’ve no doubts the visitors will prepared psychologically but they do have a couple of unfortunate injury issues before heading to the Bernabeu.
Atletico have both right-backs – Juanfran and Sime Vrsaljko – absent meaning Stefan Savic, Jose Gimenez or Luis Hernandez will need to shift over from centre-half. Gimenez limped out of the weekend romp at Las Palmas and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco is also rated a major doubt.
The aforementioned victory saw Los Colchoneros race into an early three-goal lead at the Canary Islanders, eventually running out 5-0 winners. It was the eighth success in 10 La Liga outings for Atleti and also equalled a club record of 15 away games without defeat.
But arguably most significant is the fact Simeone’s side have refound their defensive resolve with a 15th clean sheet this calendar year. The guests have conceded only five goals in their last 14 fixtures and with 18 shutouts in 21 home Champions League duels, will fancy their chances of progressing if they can score.
I fully expect another tight, tense and tactical contest in the capital; Atletico just don’t get turned over easily. The visitors have not lost an away Champions League game by more than one goal in 22 road fixtures and whilst they’ve won just one of their last seven away Champions League semi-finals, they’re resilience ensures they’re always competitive.
Real Madrid remain on-course for an overdue La Liga crown but despite playing their first XI on Saturday, Zinedine Zidane’s charges again struggled to exert their authority when creeping past Valencia here with a late winner from Marcelo.
Los Blancos’ chaotic nature and habit of falling behind suggests a team incapable of controlling games and that’s a potentially worrisome cocktail against such an organised outfit such as Atletico.
Nevertheless, the hosts have won all four of their knockout games in this season’s Champions League despite conceding the opening goal in each and their record run of scoring in each of their last 58 games suggests there’s a mentality in the camp that can simply outscore all before them.
Los Blancos boast a formidable Bernabeu return in this competition since 2010/11 (W35-D4-L2) and the home side have W8-D3-L1 in their past 12 knockout games in this competition. But there are certainly chinks in the armoury.
That 58-game scoring streak has seen Zidane’s men notch 158 goals in total but they’re without a shutout in eight and have failed to keep their sheets clean in all 10 of their outings in this competition this season. Indeed, the defending champions have silenced their opponents on just three occasions in 25 now.
The betting angles
Over 2.5 Goals has landed in all 10 of Los Blancos’ UCL encounters but no side has managed to score more than one goal in each of the last four clashes between these two teams with 11 of the last 14 Madrid derbies in all competitions featuring fewer than three goals.
Atletico made the final-four despite scoring only 13 times in 10 games and their return of 27 clean sheets in 46 Champions League games under Diego Simeone since 2013/14 is unrivalled enough to steer me well away from a goal-heavy game.
Instead, I’m opting for an old favourite when it comes to Los Colchoneros’ – the 0-0 half-time draw at 15/8 (William Hill). It looks a little too big to ignore.
It’s a selection that’s provided profit in four of the past six Madrid derbies when excluding the 2016 final on neutral territory whilst Atletico have leaked only two first-half goals in knockout UCL ties under Simeone’s watch, again when excluding finals.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s last 11 Champions League goals have been scored from the 47th minute onwards and so if this encounter follows familiar trends, it could be a slow-burner at the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid – 0-0 half-time score (15/8 William Hill)