Key Madrid derby promises La Liga tension on Saturday afternoon

Real Madrid entertain Atletico Madrid on Saturday in the biggest match in La Liga this weekend.

The game kicks off with Real Madrid eight points behind FC Barcelona in the race for the title and knowing that any more slip-ups will allow Barca to open up a near-unassailable advantage at the top of the table.

However, Carlo Ancelotti’s side goes into the game with their morale sky-high after a historic 5-2 win away to Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

That result has left Real with a price in injuries after David Alaba and Rodrygo both suffered muscle problems and neither is likely to be available on Saturday, opening the door for Nacho Fernandez to play at left-back, and for either Toni Kroos, Dani Ceballos or Aurelien Tchouameni to play in midfield, with Fede Valverde moving into a more advanced role.

Real Madrid play Barca in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal next Thursday, and it will be interesting to see if Ancelotti rests any members of a squad that has played two games a week since the start of the year.

Real booked their semifinal place after beating Atletico 3-1 in the quarterfinal at the Santiago Bernabeu, and that result left a bitter taste in the mouth of Atletico fans after they had led for much of the match.

Atletico complained bitterly that Ceballos wasn’t shown a second yellow card for a bad foul in the second half when they were leading 1-0, arguing that that would have changed the outcome of the tie.

They cross town after a 1-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao, inspired by an individual goal from Antoine Griezmann and a solid defensive display, with full-backs Nahuel Molina and Reinaldo Mandava putting in impressive performances.

With Vinicius Jr in excellent form in Anfield in midweek, and with Stefan Savic suspended and Rodrigo de Paul injured, Nahuel and Reinaldo will have to be at their best again for what promises to be another tense game in front of a packed house. ■

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