Atletico Madrid host Real Madrid on Sunday in the Madrid derby, with two of the sides' strikers likely to be the key men.
Atletico’s Diego Costa has scored 21 goals in La Liga this season, leading the title challenge for Diego Simeone’s side, who sit just three points off of the top of the table.
Having topped La Liga just a matter of weeks ago, Atletico can haul themselves equal on points with their city rivals with a win on Sunday.
However, if they are to do so then they must tame one of the division’s most in-form strikers, Karim Benzema. With Costa and Benzema looking set to be two of the derby’s key men, Squawka take a look at the duo’s respective stats this season.
Costa's Goalscoring Form
Costa has been having the season of his life so far, scoring 21 goals in 25 appearances. The talisman for Atletico, the 25-year-old has scored a goal every 102 minutes in La Liga this season.
He has also been prolific in Europe, scoring five Champions League goals—including the winner in last week’s last-16 first-leg win over Milan—in just four European games.
Benzema tails his opponent by a considerable margin, having scored 14 league goals and four European goals over the course of the season so far.
This comes despite the fact that Benzema plays for a free-scoring Real side that average almost half a goal per game more than their neighbours. Costa has proved to be lethal in front of goal, scoring 0.88 goals per 90 minutes spent on the pitch, compared to Benzema’s 0.66.
Costa has also demonstrated a higher shot accuracy than Benzema, with 58 percent of his shots hitting the target, and has averaged more shots during his time on the pitch. Per 90 minutes played, he averages 3.37 shots, dwarfing Benzema’s 2.86 shots per 90 minutes.
The Brazil-born striker has been integral to the way that Atletico play in a way that Benzema has never been for Real. While his French counterpart lives in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, Costa is the main attacking threat at Atletico, which is reflected in his share of the side’s goals. He has scored 36 percent of Atletico’s goals, taking 20 percent of their shots, while Benzema has scored 20 percent of Real’s goals and taken 11 percent of their shots.
More Creative Output From Benzema?
However, while Benzema has not been the focal point of Madrid’s attacking play, the Frenchman has eclipsed Costa in terms of creative output. He has created 1.88 chances per 90 minutes played in La Liga this season, averaging 0.28 assists per 90 minutes. Costa has averaged 1.43 chances created and 0.13 assists in the same time.
Both men have stepped up their creative outputs in the Champions League, giving a string of big-game performances that suggest that they could once again be key men on Sunday. Benzema has averaged almost on assist per 90 minutes played, registering two against Schalke last week, whilst Costa has created five chances across his 284 minutes of European action.
Domestically Benzema’s greater all-round creative contribution is recognised in his Squawka Performance Score, which is higher than Costa’s per 90 minutes played.
Benzema has laid on six assists for his teammates in La Liga this season, double the number that Costa has managed despite playing fewer minutes than the Spain international.
In Benzema, Real also have a man in form. The Frenchman has scored six goals in eight league appearances in 2014, as well as two in the Champions League, while Costa has netted just twice in the eight La Liga games of the calendar year so far.
Benzema’s goal haul makes him the joint second highest scorer in La Liga in 2014, one goal behind Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez. This also means that he is the highest league scorer at Madrid in 2014, two ahead of Ronaldo.
His recent hot streak has seen him score with 37.5 percent of his attempts on goal, with Costa languishing behind with just 10 percent of his shots finding the back of the net in 2014. Costa’s shot accuracy has also tumbled with his lack of scoring, suggesting that his slower form cannot be put down to goalkeepers or luck.
In his first 18 appearances, Costa hit the target with an impressive 71 percent of his shots, but since the resumption of the season he has hit just 25 percent of his shots on target.
Aside from his goal tally, Benzema has also proved he is in better all-round form than Costa this year. He has created 14 chances over his last eight games, compared to Costa’s six, and has a far higher shot accuracy.
This clearly bodes well for Madrid ahead of Sunday’s clash, with Benzema picking up his form and Costa dropping his.
Costa has proved he is integral to Atletico’s success this season, and it is no coincidence that the side’s form as a whole has dropped off with Costa’s. However, as proved earlier in the season, if Costa can recover his best form then he will be the key man for Atletico as they seek to draw level on points with their city rivals.