Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will do battle in the derby with two of LaLiga’s greatest ever strikers struggling – Luis Suarez is five games without a goal and Karim Benzema is not fully fit… but the battle of the veteran No 9s will prove crucial
- LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid will take on champions Real Madrid this weekend
- The crunch derby is likely to help shape the title race run-in for 2020-21 season
- Both clubs will hope to rely on their experienced frontmen to fire them to glory
- Aces Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez have taken centre stage but are struggling
- Benzema is not fully fit and Suarez has now endured a five-game barren streak
They have been the best number nines in Spain for the last decade, and on Sunday they ought to be the deciding factors in the Madrid derby that looks set to shape the title race run-in.
Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are just hoping Luis Suarez can get back in the goals and Karim Benzema can get back on the pitch in time for the title showdown.
The Uruguayan has scored 11 goals in 17 games against Real Madrid but he has not scored in his last five matches. It is a barren spell, which has coincided with the team’s dip in form.
Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez may be key when Real Madrid take on leaders Atletico Madrid
This weekend’s Madrid derby looks set to shape the LaLiga title run-in with Real needing a win
Benzema is Real Madrid’s top scorer again this season but has not played in the last three and only returned to training on Friday. It does now look as if Zidane will gamble on his talisman striker to start the must-win game despite the recent ankle problem. It’s a case of needs must for the manager.
Atletico will be eight points clear of Real Madrid with a game in hand if they win on Sunday.
Victory for Zidane’s team will close the gap to two points and mean Atletico must win their game in hand against Athletic Bilbao next Wednesday if they are to extend their lead once more.
Both sides are waiting to see if their centre-forwards can find the fitness and form that has made them so important all campaign.
Benzema is Real’s top scorer this season but may be a gamble with the veteran ace not fully fit
(Stats taken from all competitions)
(Stats taken from all competitions)
Suarez has scored 16 goals in 26 games this season but his last goal came at the start of January. He’s not played badly for most of those 475 minutes since. He is still getting into goal-scoring positions, averaging three shots a game in those matches without a goal but Simeone needs him on the scoresheet.
For Madrid, Benzema is just as important. He has 17 goals in all competitions. The ankle injury kept him out of Madrid’s first leg Champions League last-16 game against Atalanta and without him they simply don’t have a centre-forward.
Mariano is currently out injured and Luka Jovic is back on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt. Rodrygo is on standby if Benzema can’t make it against Atletico.
Real Madrid also have Fede Valverde back after a long spell out and he can also take up attacking positions from deep. But Sergio Ramos, who was last season’s second top scorer, and Dani Carvajal, who scored in the fixture earlier in the season, are both out. Eden Hazard, of whom so much was expected, is also still missing.
Suarez’s last goal came in January but Atletico will hope his fine record against Real continues
Suarez is fit, far fitter than Barcelona thought he would be at this stage of the season when they packed him off to title rivals last summer.
Barca could end up paying the ultimate price for that if his goals lead Atletico to win the league.
The title feels close now for Atletico fans and the temptation to get a little bit nearer to their players might be about to get the better of them.
Fans have organised a reception for the team coach as it reaches the stadium on Sunday and, after 12 months of not being able to watch their side at the Wanda Metropolitano, large numbers are expected to gather on the wide Avenida de Arcentales in the hours before the game.
Former Barcelona striker Suarez is fitter than initially believed and may fire Atletico to the title
You know the title is close when supporters begin welcoming the bus.
Just ask Suarez, who spoke about supporters congregating outside Anfield to watch the team bus when Liverpool had a chance of winning the league in 2014.
‘For most players, seeing that support is a source of motivation. For others it can be frightening,’ he wrote in his book ‘Crossing the line‘.
Liverpool eventually blew that title although Suarez went on to win four leagues at Barcelona, and Liverpool, without him, would win the title last year. While Liverpool were blowing the league in 2014, Atletico Madrid were winning LaLiga.
Zinedine Zidane will need Benzema on the pitch more than ever despite his struggle with injury
Without Benzema, who has netted 17 goals this term, Real simply don’t have a centre forward
Now they are close again. Win on Sunday and the gap will be eight points plus a game in hand, and with only 12 matchdays remaining.
They need Suarez to do as he has done so many times before and score against Real Madrid.
Zidane needs Benzema on the pitch, doing what he has done consistently ever since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure made him more important than ever.
Two of the greatest centre-forwards to ever grace the competition are not in the best moments of their season, but their teams need them more than ever.
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