With the last international break of the year behind us, it’s time for the clubs to play the final games of 2016. La Liga returns with one of its most important clashes, the Madrid derby between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. Currently six points apart in the table, the result will be of special interest for FC Barcelona, as they could claim the top spot. Without a doubt, this will be a very intense 90 minutes.
Preferred Formation: 4-3-3
Zinedine Zidane is about to face one of his toughest tests of the season. Uncertainty over injured players will keep his lineup decisions on hold until the last minute. The Vicente Calderón has become a nightmarish visit for Real, and this particular one won’t be any different. He must really get through to his players, as the consistent mistakes from past weeks aren’t acceptable now.
GK: Keylor Navas
He was finally able to keep a clean sheet once again. He kept that momentum going with his national team with two extra clean sheets. While it will be an uphill battle, getting another one would be golden.
RB: Dani Carvajal
Miles ahead of Danilo in form, he’s a safe bet for the starting lineup. These matches tend to get very heated and Dani has a short temper. He needs to control himself and think only of the team.
CB: Raphaël Varane
Pepe’s still gone and he’ll have to pair up with his usual partner. Atleti is third in terms of goalscoring and second in the goals conceded chart. Griezmann and Carrasco must be tightly controlled.
CB: Sergio Ramos
He’s every Colchonero’s worst nightmare. His goals in Lisbon and Milan kept them from winning the UEFA Champions League. Even though he’s just coming back from an extended leave, he seems ready.
He’s slowly regaining the form we saw in the pre-season. With Isco ahead of him, they usually make a good pair. They both should collaborate with the center backs, but also the attackers.
RCM: Luka Modrić
He’s arguably the only good news for Zizou. His creativity will be the driving force of the midfield. He’ll also have to contribute in the back in order to make up for the #8’s long absence.
CM: Mateo Kovačić
Without Toni Kroos, the only man capable of replicating his offensive and defensive duties is Kovačić. Casemiro may be the surprise, but he’s cutting it close. On top of that, forcing him in a match like this would do more harm than good.
He’s established himself during Casemiro’s time away. He’s ahead of James at the moment, yet Marco Asensio could swoop in if the coach decides to change things up a bit. All in all, a player of this style is needed.
RW: Gareth Bale
His goal with the Wales national team wasn’t enough to climb up the group D table. He’s never scored at the Calderón and his only goal against them was the 2-1 in Lisbon. Now would be an ideal time to break this negative streak.
ST: Karim Benzema
His presence isn’t guaranteed and he’s expected to go through some medical tests on Friday. Morata also picked up an injury over the break, so if Benzema should miss it, Ronaldo would be in the #9 role.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
He helped his national team seal a win versus Latvia. He’s scored in less than half the matches he’s played for Real this season. It’s in these types of games that he must really step it up.