Derby matches are the biggest and best games in football, and this weekend we have two massive ones: the Madrid Derbi and the Derbi de la Comunitat, between Valencia and Villarreal.
Any derby as a footballer is different to every other game. In these matches you are not only playing for yourself, but you are playing for the badge, and most importantly, you are playing for the fans. Pride is at stake!
It is not a game that players will enjoy. Maybe if they start the game well, and they are on top, they will settle down and start to embrace it, but the whole time you worry because this is the match you need to win. There is so much pressure on it.
I think this aspect massively benefits Real Madrid. These players have been in these high-pressure games so many times before and they know how to cope with the tension.
This match is massive to the Real Madrid fans, but it is going to be even bigger for the Atlético fans. The expectation is going to be ramped up on the Atlético players as they have had a blip in recent weeks, and if they lose this game then the title race truly is wide open.
I want to see Atlético attack in this game. Every time they play a big game they sit so deep. At times against Chelsea in the Champions League they played with six at the back. They have the most talented squad in LaLiga and should be creating a lot more chances.
Luis Suárez has massively overachieved this season, he has 16 goals and that is incredible considering how little chances are created for him. On a brighter note, last time out they managed to keep a clean sheet, which was their first in eight games. That will be massive for their confidence.
In the previous Madrid Derbi this season, Atlético deservedly lost 2-0 and it was their own doing as they did not play well at all.
I think Real Madrid’s fortunes depend massively on whether Karim Benzema can play. Real Madrid haven’t looked themselves without him in recent weeks, but I feel that it is also due to the volume of games they are playing. Casemiro never gets a break, Luka ModriÄ and Toni Kroos are playing every week and aren’t getting any younger.
Real Madrid need to find another way to attack, they have become quite predictable. They are relying on their world-class players, such as Kroos and ModriÄ, picking out immaculate passes every week. This just isn’t a sustainable way to play football.
It should be a terrific game and if I had to stick my neck on the line, I’d go for a Real Madrid victory. I think they just have so much experience in pressure situations that will see them through this game.
Both Valencia and Villarreal are having disappointing campaigns. Villarreal sacked their manager last season after they qualified for the Europa League and brought in Unai Emery. Their objective this season was to qualify for the Champions League, and they aren’t going to do that unless they win the Europa League, which is not an easy task.
Villarreal have a mentality issue. They score one goal and they sit on that lead. They have the talent to attack more before sitting off their opponents. It has led to them dropping so many points by drawing so many games needlessly. If they don’t improve, they will find themselves playing for nothing in a couple of weeks and that would be a disappointing end to the season.
On the other hand, Valencia’s season never got started. They lost a lot of players in the summer and failed to replace them. They find themselves on 27 points after 25 games and that simply isn’t good enough for a club of their size. They still have a quality starting XI but I am concerned that if they don’t start performing now they will be pulled into a relegation battle. They were very poor last time out against Getafe, and I am unsure if they have the fight in them to end the season well.
This game is massive for both clubs: a win for Villarreal could kickstart their chase for European football but victory for Valencia would give them breathing space from the relegation battle.
Barcelona picked up massive back-to-back wins over Sevilla and were good value for those wins, particularly the Copa Del Rey comeback. They are now in a cup final and have silverware to play for this season.
The main problem for Barcelona is efficiency at both ends of the pitch. Yes, they are the top scorers in LaLiga, but they create by far the most chances and have been so wasteful. Lionel Messi is the top scorer in LaLiga with 19 goals, but he’s had nearly 100 shots, so the ratio is not great.
When out of possession they struggle to press effectively, and that means they are conceding too many chances. This weekend they are playing an Osasuna side that will happily sit in and absorb chances. They need to be efficient and take the chances when they come.
Osasuna face a difficult task. I feel like they have done enough to avoid a relegation battle, especially because they have found good form. They are willing to sit deep but that likely won’t work against Barca. Their best chance at getting something out the game is pressing higher up the pitch, as Barca have struggled against the press this season.
Barcelona are in good form and will need to win here if they want to maintain their title hopes.
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