On Wednesday evening, Real Madrid face off against their local rivals Atletico in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, with both the performance and result likely to provide significant connotations in this season's La Liga title race.
The Spanish capital is awash with expectation from all angles as both Los Blancos and Los Colchoneros supporters can boast that their respective club are flying the Madrid flag high this season.
Far from being a distraction for La Liga and the Champions League, the Copa del Rey tie offers an intriguing subplot to this season’s bigger prizes, with Atletico currently occupying the summit of La Liga—three points ahead of their noisy neighbours Real.
Being Copa del Rey holders, Los Rojiblancos will hope to repeat last season’s feat of putting Real to the sword, when they triumphed 2-1 in the final—held on enemy soil.
In fact, that match ended a 14-year jinx for Atletico, who had not registered a single win against their local rivals. It has thus far proved to be a catalyst for Atletico’s success this season, which includes a 1-0 La Liga victory over Los Blancos, again at the Bernabeu.
Despite Real having the stronger squad on paper, critically it is Atletico who currently hold the all-important, and sometimes underrated, psychological advantage. Much has been made of Ronaldo’s absence for bit-part players to step in, but both Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone will acknowledge the true significance of this tie.
The reality is that the conqueror will march onto the final with real belief that they will also be in the driving seat to be crowned Kings of Spain come May.