Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone will opt to start striker Mario Mandzukic over Fernando Torres for Saturday’s showdown with cross-city rivals, Real Madrid.
The decision may come as a surprise to some since Torres scored twice against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu early in January to ensure Atletico’s advancement in the Copa del Rey. But few will question the decision-making of Simeone, the man who is one of the most sought-after managers in the sport, and who has engineered the greatest renaissance in European football over his past three years in Madrid.
Mandzukic did score the opening goal against Real Madrid during the decisive second leg of the Spanish Super Cup earlier this season. The Croatian’s second minute strike gave Atletico a 2-1 lead on aggregate, which ended up being the final scoreline of the two-legged cup competition.
Along with his scoring ability in open play, Atletico will be looking to use Mandzukic’s size to their advantage as well. With Real Madrid missing Pepe and Sergio Ramos in the center of their defense for the derby, the home side will be looking to use the Croatian’s height to their advantage on crosses and set-pieces.
The former Bayern Munich striker is also coming off scoring a brace against Eibar last weekend.
Simeone has chosen to partner Mandzukic with in-form forward Antoine Griezmann, who was just named player of the month for January by La Liga.
Torres will come off the bench and should provide a spark to the game, no matter what the score is at the time.
The two Madrid clubs have already met five times this season in all competitions. Atletico are currently unbeaten against Los Blancos, with three wins and two draws in those contests. Los Colchoneros have also beaten their cross-city rivals both times this season at the Vicente Calderon.
Atletico Madrid’s starting eleven against Real Madrid will likely shape up as follows: Miguel Angel Moya; Juanfran, Diego Godin, Miranda, Guilherme Siqueira; Arda Turan, Gabi, Tiago, Koke; Griezmann, Mandzukic.
Programming note: Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid will be shown LIVE on Saturday morning starting at 9:55am EST on beINSPORTS and DishWorld.
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