Had the El Derbi been played last weekend, it would have been a game between the top two teams in La Liga.
But after this weekend, three places and 10 points separate the two teams from the Spanish capital. Real are topping the table with 39 points, while their city rivals Atlético are fourth – 10 points behind, though they have a game in hand.
Real go into the 207th edition of the derby on the back of a convincing 2-0 victory at Real Sociedad, while Atléti gave away a one-goal lead at home against Mallorca and went on to lose 2-1.
With players like David Alaba, Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric available, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti had the luxury of keeping Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard on the bench.
Ancelotti’s star striker Karim Benzema might be missing for Saturday’s game at the Santiago Bernabéu as the French international had to be substituted against Sociedad and seems likely to miss at least Los Blancos’ midweek Champions League match.
The player who replaced him, Luka Jovic, was in excellent form, setting up Real’s opener through Vinicius Junior and scoring the second himself.
Modric praised the Serbian international, who must be a contender to start in the derby, especially if Benzema is not available. “He put in a very good performance despite not playing regularly. He showed that we can count on him.”
Atlético, of course, have their own crop of star players available, with Luis Suárez, Antoine Griezmann, José María Giménez, Koke and João Félix all being seasoned internationals.
Diego Simeone will be without Stefan Savic on Saturday though, as the influential centre back whose absence was severely felt in the latter stages against Mallorca, had to be substituted with an injury early in the first half.
Simeone expects his team to bounce back from the defeat against Mallorca. “This result hurts us, that’s the reality. But we have to continue into the next games.
“Either you get depressed or you rebel, I trust this squad and the coaching staff to work hard and redirect to the paths we know well,” he said.
Football fans in Africa will be able to see whether Real Madrid can add another win to their impressive record as the game will be broadcast live and in HD on the StarTimes channels.