The last devastating loss against Atletico de Madrid on Saturday marks the sixth straight game winless for Real Madrid in the classic Madrid’s duel popularly called “El Derbi“. This 2014/15 season, Atletico won 4 of 6 matches (two in La Liga, one en La Copa and one in the Super Cup). It is not only about the score but also Real’s performance on the pitch, totally unable to unmask Simeone’s tactics and Atletico’s intensity and passion. Under the Argentinian coach’s command, Atletico de Madrid is 6-6-3 (win-loss-draw) against its greatest rival.
Back in 2013, Atletico broke a 14-year curse in “El Derbi” (collecting a 0-19-6 record) in the best possible scene, La Copa final in Santiago Bernabeu; João Miranda goal in the overtime gave ‘Atleti’ a sweet 1-2 win. Since then, last Jose Mourinho’s game as a Real Madrid coach, Diego Simeone has deployed excellent tactics against Carlo Ancelotti’s team, excluding 2014 La Copa semifinals (3-0 and 0-2 for Real) but including 2014 Champions League final with that Sergio Ramos late goal which lead the game to the overtime where Real Madrid was better. Simeone-Ancelotti showdown is 5-3-3 record.
The prime reason Atletico is in equal conditions than Real these days is self-esteem. Simeone shooed away the ghosts of the past in that 2013 La Copa final and later with the first win in Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga since October 30th 1999. The main key is the outstanding mental state of a team which has won 5 titles (La Liga, UEFA Europa League, La Copa, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup) in 3 years. There are three other keys why Atletico the Madrid is measuring up Real Madrid in the Spanish capital’s showdowns.
Atletico’s game plans are better, it looks Simeone takes it more seriously. Players have a better attitude, specially in the first minutes of the game. Fernando Torres scored in the first two minutes of each half in Santiago Bernabeu and Thiago in the 12th minute on saturday. Atletico de Madrid is a very intensity focused team, its rivals pay dearly for lacks of concentration because ‘Atleti’ never gives up. Moreover every player plays at the edge of the rules. It’s not new. They usually frustrate their rivals.
With its non-negotiable static style, Atletico de Madrid is expert in scoring goals when its rival lowers its guard. And if they score first, it is practically impossible to penetrate the rocky wall the entire team builds. They paralyze the midfield, making the ball movement slower and shutting down the wings. Ball doesn’t reach the last part of the pitch and that gives fewer chances for the forwards.
This is another moment when the rival lowers its guard. ‘Atleti’ is specialist in this kind of plays; Tiago, Gimenez and Raul García scored goals in the last six “Derbis”. Ancelotti says his team practice these situations but no one sees some results.
Unless they play again in Champions League, we won’t see another showdown until next season. And the ghosts are now in the other side of the city.