They’ve met seven times this season and on each occasion it’s been the immovable object which has overcome the irresistible force. However if the irresistible force is to come out on top on Wednesday night, it will be without four key elements, namely Marcelo, Modrić, Bale and Benzema who are all unavailable because of suspension and injury.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team have scored in all but five games in all competitions since the start of the 2014-15 season, with Atletico Madrid stopping them four times.
Los Blancos average almost three goals a game in La Liga and 2.33 goals per game in the Champions League; but on the seven occasions that the two teams have met, Real have punctured what is arguably Europe’s meanest defence only four times, whilst conceding 12.
Since their heart-breaking defeat in last season’s Champions League final, Atleti have beaten their mighty neighbours four times, including an impressive league double, whilst the other three games ended all square.
Victories over two legs in the Supercopa de España and the Copa Del Rey, as well as inflicting Real’s only home defeat at the Bernabéu, have given the Rojiblancos bragging rights; but after a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderón last week, it’s all or nothing on Wednesday night.
Atleti will start the second leg holding a psychological edge over their neighbours and with the confidence that follows an unbeaten run of 10 games in all competitions. Striker Mandzukic remains their only injury doubt; but forward Antoine Griezmann has been in fine form, having scored six times in the last four games in La Liga.
When examining Real Madrid’s data from the extensive SportsMatrix database it is clear that manager Carlo Ancelotti is faced with a real headache, with each of the absentees having played a key role in the team’s success.
Although nominally a full back, Marcelo plays a significant role both in his link up play with Ronaldo, but also in the chances that he creates down the left flank. In La Liga games this season the Brazilian averaged 1.7 chances a game, this from 4.7 attempts at creating a chance. He delivered one good cross per game and averaging almost one and a half dribbles per game, half of which were rated as good, a figure bettered only by Ronaldo, Isco and Modrić.
How does Carlo Ancelotti replace the irreplaceable? Luka Modrić has pulled the strings in the Real Madrid midfield, enabling his teammates to create on average 17.7 chances per game. Modrić controls the centre, delivering 14% of the team’s passes in the process of creating attacks, delivering more passes than any of his teammates and averaging considerably more good passes (18) a game, than any other Real Madrid player.
Gareth Bale has endured a difficult time from his own supporters this season, yet his performances have generally been impressive. Only the exceptional Ronaldo has performed a higher percentage of individual actions than Bale, who averaged one good dribble per game in the opposition final third. Bale delivered more crosses per game (4.0) than any of his teammates, with only James Rodríguez averaging more good crosses per game. Bale attempted to create chances on average 6.5 times per game, more even than Ronaldo, although the percentage of chances created from attempts was less impressive (29%).
With 15 goals and nine assists, Benzema is more than just a striker. He has delivered 20% of Real’s passes in the opposition attacking third, averaging 2.3 good passes a game, a figure bettered only by Isco. In La Liga games analysed, Benzema attempted to create on average 4.7 chances and successfully created two chances per game, a figure bettered only by Ronaldo.
Atletico Madrid go into the second leg perhaps with a slight advantage. They prevented Real from scoring a vital away goal in the first leg, they’ve scored at the Santiago Bernabéu in each of their three previous games this season and are facing opponents shorn of some of their most influential players.
Will it be Champions League revenge for ‘Cholo’ Simeone or will Carlo Ancelotti once again come out on top in the competition where his success is unrivalled both as player and manager?