Carlo Ancelotti's team take a 3-0 lead to the Vicente Calderon Stadium in what looks to be a foregone conclusion. Real wrapped up a solid victory over their inner-city opponents last week and have more than a foot in the final—a match which could see them face their other biggest enemy, Barcelona, should they advance.
However, Atletico Madrid are joint league leaders along with Real and Barca and are there for good reason. Diego Simeone's side have scored the most and conceded the fewest amount of goals at home in the league this season.
The chips are down and it's going to be a big ask, but Atletico can still win this tie, and here's just how they can do it.
They Will Need Some Luck
OK, this one may be out of their hands, but Atletico will need Lady Luck to be on their side if they stand any chance of turning around a 3-0 deficit.
During Real's victory at the Santiago Bernabeu last week, Carlo Ancelotti's side were very fortunate to score two of their goals. Atleti boss Diego Simeone was quick to point out that his side were handed a bad slice of luck at the end of the first leg, and congratulated Real—in a round about sort of way.
"They had the good fortune to open the scoring with a shot that was going out of play and that helped them settle.
"Two goals came off the bodies of a player. There weren't many other big chances, but this was a great result for our opponent,” said the former Argentine midfielder after the game.
Real's first goal came via a wicked deflection as centre-half Pepe tried his luck from long range, only for the ball to cannon off the leg of Emiliano Insua and past the helpless Thibaut Courtois.
And Real's third goal, which may have put the tie beyond doubt, also came via another huge deflection.
Angel Di Maria, who provided the assist for the home side's second goal, was fortunate to see a wayward effort ricochet off the foot of Miranda and, once more, fly past Courtois who had already committed to the dive.
In truth, there was nothing Los Rojiblancos could have done about the two goals, but, as the old saying in football goes, “they even themselves out across the season.”
Simeone and his players will be hoping that this is the case as they host their great rivals.
Maintain Their Focus
Simeone prides himself on his side being disciplined, regimented and focused. Atletico have conceded just seven goals in their 10 matches played at the Vicente Calderon this season—fewer than any other team at home in the league.
But, at various stages during the 3-0 defeat in the first leg, Simeone's players lost their concentration and were guilty of mistakes that led to goals—even the two own goals.
The following pictures show two individual errors that led to Real's second goal.
First of all, right-back Juanfran allows Angel di Maria far too much time on the ball and, instead of showing the tricky winger down the line, allows the Argentine to cut inside and travel 10 yards before producing the killer pass which led to the goal.
Had he done that, although showing di Maria onto his stronger left side, it would have allowed for midfielder Cristian Rodriguez to double up on the winger—giving Atleti a better chance of preventing the goal.
Secondly, during the same passage of play, goalscorer Jese is afforded the luxury of running completely unmarked between the visiting side's two centre-halves.
There's a real lack of communication between three of Atleti's back four—Emiliano Insua, Diego Godin and Miranda—who fail to pick up Jese's run as they ball-watch.
In the end, it was a sublime pinpoint pass from Di Maria to find the run of Jese, but the goal could have so easily been avoided.
Simeone's side cannot afford any more defensive mishaps in the second leg. Los Rojiblancos will need to play at their very best, minimising individual errors, if they're to stand any chance of turning around the scoreline.
Keep Ronaldo and Bale Quiet
Los Blancos have Cristiano Ronaldo available despite a domestic ban and will be buoyed by the news that record signing Gareth Bale has returned to full fitness.
The world's most expensive player opened the scoring in Real's 4-2 La Liga win at home to Villarreal on Saturday and set up Karim Benzema for the game's second goal.
Keeping two of the world's best footballers quiet does sound like a pretty obvious ploy to win a football match, but executing such a plan, especially when the two form part of a team who have netted the most times in the league this season, is a big ask. But it is possible.
Though Bale may have been sidelined in recent weeks through injury, Madrid endured a slight wobble—most notably in the 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.
Los Leones collectively worked their socks off as they held 10-man Real, who had Ronaldo sent off late in the game. But before the Portuguese forward's dismissal, Ernesto Valverde's side had doubled up on Real's No. 7 all evening, flooding the midfield, but worked tirelessly with the ball in their possession.
Tuesday's fixture at the Vicente Calderon will be vastly different to Real's stalemate with Bilbao as Los Blancos aren't required to chase the game, but their attacking style of football may present Atletico with a chance to defend as a unit and then attack on the counter.
As I previously mentioned, the odds of Simeone's side turning around a 3-0 deficit are stacked against them, but as the Argentine has said, "Qualification will be difficult but nothing is impossible in life.”
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