Real haven’t won against Atletico in over two years, losing 4-0 away last time around
MADRID: Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos look set to make their first appearance for Real Madrid since September 13 in Sunday’s derby away to Atletico Madrid after coach Rafael Benitez confirmed they will both be in the squad.
“The two have trained and will be in the squad,” said Benitez on Saturday. “If they start or not we will decide tomorrow. I have spoken to Gareth and Sergio and they are both fine and excited to play. They have been cleared to play, but match-fitness is another thing.”
However, there isn’t such good news on James Rodriguez as the top scorer from the 2014 World Cup has suffered a knock that has delayed his comeback.
Rodriguez hasn’t featured since being injured whilst on international duty with Colombia last month, but had been called up for their World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay.
However, Benitez cast doubt on whether the 24-year-old would be allowed to travel to South America. “He got a knock on Thursday and won’t be ready for this game,” he said. “The Colombian national team manager and doctor are in Madrid. He won’t be ready for Sunday and almost certainly not to go with the national team either.”
Madrid lead Atletico by two points after the first six games and the biggest game of the La Liga campaign to date hands both a big opportunity to lay down an early marker.
Real were thrashed 4-0 at the Vicente Calderon last season and haven’t won a league derby for two seasons.
And Benitez called on his side to match the intensity of Diego Simeone’s side. “We will approach the game with the idea of winning, but there are many different ways to achieve the result,” he said. “We know it will be very difficult. We have to respond with character and personality, but try to play our football.”
Atletico will also be without a key player as Simeone confirmed that Spanish international Koke will miss out as he has failed to recover in time from a hamstring injury.
Los Rojiblancos have suffered two consecutive defeats to Villarreal and Benfica, but Simeone insisted he wasn’t panicking after a huge turnover of the squad during the transfer window. “It doesn’t surprise me at all what is happening to us,” he said. “The first 10 games were going to be very difficult with hard opponents at home and difficult games away. We have a lot of young players in the team and we have to incorporate them slowly.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2015.
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