Fernando Torres will be looking for a double reason to celebrate when Atletico Madrid entertain Real Madrid in the Madrid derby of the La Liga at the Vicente Calderon Stadium here on Sunday night.
Torres looks set to make his 200th appearance for Atletico and is also just two goals away from scoring his 100th goal for the club. That may be a long way behind Cristiano Ronaldo who will break Raul Gonzalez’s record of 323 goals for Real should he score, but for a player who was brought up as an Atletico fan, it is no less significant.
The two sides are more than familiar with each other after meeting eight times last season, and although Atletico had the better of their neighbours in the Spanish Supercup, the Spanish Cup and the La Liga, Real got their revenge by knocking them out of the Champions League.
They have a chance to place Atletico under early pressure in the league this season as Diego Simeone’s side goes into the tie on the back of a league defeat away against Villarreal and a loss at home to Benfica in the Champions League.
Another defeat for Atletico would be their third league defeat of the campaign, given they lost to Barcelona in the third round of games and three defeats in seven matches would leave them with a lot of ground to make up.
Atletico have looked flat in recent games with big money signing, Jackson Martinez so far failing to show the form he produced in Porto last year and the side is missing the energy and creativity of Koke in midfield.
But Real head coach Rafa Benitez is taking nothing for granted.
“Atletico are a great team and a great club and they are doing very well and they also have the advantage that this is a derby,” Benitez commented at the pre-game press conference.
“It is going to be a game where there is a lot of passion and personality shown on the pitch and whether or not it opens up is down to tactical details. They will be organised and play with intensity and that is their virtue,” said Benitez, who insisted his side would have to “respond with character and intensity and try to play football”.
Real meanwhile should welcome Welsh forward Gareth Bale back into the side after injury, although attacking midfielder James Rodriguez’s muscle injury will keep him out of action until after the international break.
Benitez has formed a side which has become a lot harder to score goals against, but a draw at home against Malaga showed there is still work to do.
“I think the team is looking good. You can always improve, but the numbers show that the team is playing well and we have a positive feeling,” he said, preferring to forget last season’s 0-4 defeat in the Calderon.
Sunday should prove to be a test of both sides’ capacity to win this season’s title.