Real Madrid’s title bid was dealt a huge blow as they suffered a damaging 1-0 home defeat to Atletico in the Madrid derby. Los Blancos are now 9 points adrift of leaders Barcelona, having played a game more; whereas Atletico closed to gap to 5 with a stunning victory. Here we have picked five talking points from a high voltage Capital clash.
Ronaldo fails to deliver on big stage again
If you ever want to criticize Ronaldo, you have to take it with a pinch of salt considering his incredible goalscoring exploits over the years, but if you delve a bit deeper into his recent record against the top class of La Liga, it certainly does not make for an impressive reading. Seven goals against the top five last term are not at all the form of one of the world’s best, but this season’s stats are even less flattering.
The Portuguese superstar is yet to strike against a team in the top five side this term, and once again struggled with profligacy when he was needed the most; missing two golden chances to equalize.
The other concerning issue with the 31-year-old is that whenever the situation gets tough, he tries to disappear into petulant anonymity – the complete opposite nature to Atletico Madrid’s teamwork-focused gameplay – and such pathetic conduct is actually forcing the Madridistas to become further disillusioned with their talisman.
Deceptive strength in Simeone’s disposal
The most effective part of the thrill Diego Simeone has managed to take from yet another campaign fighting for the La Liga title is that only a handful of his squad members are household names, and they were mainly recruited for a reasonable fee instead of eye-catching transfer fees.
Atletico’s key players in both attack and defence were on the bench yesterday while Real Madrid only had an 18-year-old in hand when Karim Benzema was withdrawn.
Tiago’s sudden injury forced Simeone to add another central midfield option, and with Augusto Fernandez, the Argentine picked up another important component to his multi-faceted squad.
The former Celta Vigo player bolsters the record of most tackles per game in La Liga this term, and was arguably the man of the match in Bernabeu with a tireless display; showing further evidence of the wealth of options Simeone has in hand.
How good are Ronaldo’s teammates
Ronaldo’s surprising attack on his teammates following the defeat to Atletico looks remarkably harsh and unhelpful, to say the least; but the question is does the Portuguese have a point?
Despite the millions spent on transfers, Real Madrid still depends on their key men a great deal, Ronaldo being the focal point. Also without the service of Benzema in an attack against Malaga last week, and in the second half against Atleti yesterday, Real looked simply average.
Ronaldo singled out Jese, Mateo Kovacic and Lucas Vazquez, and it will be interesting to see whether these players will make the grade.
Jese took the limelight as an exciting youngster in 2011, but sadly after making over 50 appearances for Real, his career has somehow stagnated.
The other two – Vazquez and new arrival Kovacic haven’t done enough to suggest they actually are of the required calibre, and if these are the players Zidane has to rely, then the Frenchman may have a much more challenging job on his hands than he first thought.
Rock solid defence for big occasion
Put aside Champions League heartache and Atletico Madrid’s recent domestic success against city rivals Real is quite extraordinary.
Looks like Atletico enjoy the big occasion, especially their resolute rearguard defence. Be it stubbornly holding off Barcelona’s fearful attack to clinch a league title at the Nou Camp or keeping Ronaldo and co in check once again in the capital, Diego Godin and his defence never ever let their concentration slip for a single moment.
Two banks of four is what Diego Simeone generally builds his big-game plans on, and yet again his players successfully executed the very definition of a solid system on Saturday’s Madrid derby, with underrated captain Gabi operating as the organizer-in-chief.
What’s more impressive with their defensive record recently is, only Bayern Munich have conceded as few league goals in Europe like Atleti. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak is often merely a spectator. Interestingly, 15 goalkeepers in La Liga have had to make more saves than that of Atleti’s Slovenian stopper.
Like always, form temporary and class permanent
Big occasions always demand key players to stand up and prove their worth. While Ronaldo again failed to do that at Bernabeu, the stage was left free for Griezmann to silent his critics.
Doubts over the famed quality of the Frenchman have surfaced as Griezmann remained goalless for five games in all competitions stepping into Saturday’s Madrid derby, having failed to register a single shot on target in the Spanish league since the end of January.
However, despite looking inconsistent of the ball, Griezmann was certainly the best attacking player on the field, having almost broken the deadlock with a magnificent strike in the first half, before he singles-handedly started and finished the move which ultimately won the match just after half-time.
And, as when we will sit and analyse at the end of the season, Griezmann will be out there to prove that his stock is still worthy of such high regard.