Here we are. The most anticipated fixture in the La Liga, second only to the El Clasico, is here: The Madrid Derby. Real Madrid take on Atletico Madrid Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu in one of the most crucial games of the season.
The importance of the game has increased over the years with the initially mellowed Atletico Madrid steadily rising in the Spanish top flight and giving the top two — Real Madrid and Barcelona — some serious headache. At the moment, Atletico are above Real in the table with just a point seperating the two.
While Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid are on 55 points from 25 games, Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid are on 54 points from 25 games. The winner of the match will be expected to gain much confidence going ahead.
Both teams want to catch up with Barcelona, who are on 63 points, and if they don't start doing something about it right now, they can forget their La Liga ambitions for the season.
Simeone has been involved in quite many Madrid derbies over the seasons both as a player and a manager of Atletico Madrid. Zidane, however, has never managed Real Madrid in a Madrid derby. As a player, well we all know he has.
"Whatever happens, we won't be saying goodbye to La Liga," Zidane was quoted by the BBC as saying ahead of the game. "We're not going to give up until the end because there are points to play for."
While Gareth Bale continues his injury spell for Real Madrid, the Los Blancos will not be missing one key player — Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite coming under criticism for some not-so-decent performance, Ronaldo has 22 goals from 25 games for Real Madrid this season, and is looking to make an emphatic statement against their local rivals.
"It is an important game, at home, in front of the fans, against a tough opponent that defends well. It is a game that we have to win," said Ronaldo. "We know that La Liga is difficult but we need to fight until the end."
Atletico Madrid have a slight disadvantage as they took on PSV Eindhoven in a Champions League last-16 game just three days ago and didn't have proper rest ahead of the crucial Madrid derby. However, Diego Simeone wants his men to utilise their strengths to thwart the attacks from Real Madrid.
"We will have to do important defensive work to hold their attack," the Argentine coach was quoted by ESPN FC. "We have our very defined way of playing and will not stray from that. We will try and take the game to a place where we feel most comfortable."
Possible starting XI
Real Madrid: Navas; Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Carvajal; Kroos, Modric, Isco; James, Benzema, Ronaldo.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Luis; Saul, Augusto, Gabi, Koke; Vietto, Griezmann.
Where to watch live
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid is scheduled to kick-off Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. GMT (8:30 p.m. IST, 10 a.m. ET).
In India, viewers can catch the game on Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD. Online streaming will be available on SonyLiv.
In the US, viewers can catch the game on beIN Sports USA, beIN Sports en Espanol and Fubo TV. Online streaming will be available on beIN Sports Connect.
In Spain, viewers can catch the game on Canal+ Liga/HD and Abono Futbol. Online streaming will be available on Movistar TV.
In the UK and Ireland, there will be no live coverage of the game.