Atletico take on Real in Madrid derby

Madrid, Feb 28: Sunday is derby day again in the Spanish capital as Atletico and Real Madrid go head to head in the Vicente Calderon Stadium in a game which could go a long way towards deciding the final destination of the La Liga title.

Recent history between the two has been a seesaw of emotions as Atletico ended 15 years of disappointment by beating their neighbours in the 2013 Copa del Rey final and then following that up by inflicting Real’s only home defeat this season in the Santiago Bernabeu, reports Xinhua.

Fortunes swung in Real’s favour in 2014 Copa del Rey as they defeated Atletico 5-0 on aggregate and the wind looks to be blowing Real Madrid’s way again after their stunning 6-1 away win to Schalke 04 in the Champions League and Atletico’s 0-3 defeat away to Osasuna Sunday.

That has left Atletico three points behind Real Madrid, meaning that should they win, they will leapfrog their rivals in the league while a defeat would leave them six points behind in the title race.

Nowhere will the derby be watched more closely than in Barcelona where an Atletico win coupled with a home victory for Barcelona against Almeria would see the Catalans go back to the top of the table.

Under normal circumstances Barcelona should brush past their rivals but it has been a difficult week in the wake of last Saturday’s defeat in San Sebastian with speculation over the future of coach Tata Martino included. Martino is suspended for the Almeria game but his side needs to produce a comfortable win in order to steady a ship which is in severe danger of capsising.

The Sevilla-Real Sociedad match promises to be a tight affair with Real Sociedad in confident mood after beating Barcelona a week ago while Sevilla got back to winning ways but were far from convincing away to Rayo Vallecano.

Rayo are starting to look doomed to the drop along with Betis but Paco Jemez’s side can always be relied on to give everything, although that might not be enough against an improving Valencia, who have European ambitions following their recent recovery.

Saturday could be interesting in the ‘sack race’ — the race no coach wants to win as Malaga entertain Valladolid with Malaga’s Bernd Schuster and Valladolid’s Juan Ignacio Martinez both under pressure. It could be no exaggeration to say that the loser could well lose his job.

Defeat for Getafe at home to Espanyol could also end Luis Garcia’s reign in the south of Madrid. Meanwhile, the weekend’s other matches see Levante entertain Osasuna and Elche look for three points at home to an improving Celta Vigo.

IANS