Atletico Madrid suffered another slip up in their LaLiga title charge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Getafe.

Diego Simeone brought up his record-setting 309th victory in charge of Atleti with a win over Athletic Bilbao last time out, but triumph number 310 evaded him on Saturday.

It was not for a lack of trying – Getafe goalkeeper David Soria pulling off a string of impressive stops, while Luis Suarez hit the woodwork.

Allan Nyom saw red for the hosts with 20 minutes left, yet Atleti could not make their numerical advantage count as they were forced to settle for just one point.

Perhaps spurred on by Real Madrid's earlier win, Atleti started with real intent – Suarez popping a header over before Soria denied Yannick Carrasco.

A rare error from Jan Oblak almost proved costly before the break, though Nemanja Maksimovic was unable to capitalise.

Oblak was back at his best on the hour, standing firm to deny Enes Unal after a sweeping Getafe counter.

Introduced at half-time, Joao Felix thought he had broken the deadlock moments later, but Marcos Llorente failed to keep the ball in play before squaring for the Portugal youngster.

Atleti were handed a boost with Nyom having his booking for a stamp on Renan Lodi upgraded to a red after a VAR check.

Getafe felt equally as hard done by from their next attack, the referee dismissing what seemed valid appeals for a penalty following Moussa Dembele's challenge on Maksimovic.

Dembele was in the thick of it at the other end soon after, twice testing Soria from close range – the first effort drawing a truly sensational stop – either side of Joao Felix forcing Getafe's goalkeeper into action.

Suarez thought he had won it in the closing stages, only for the post to come to Getafe's rescue, with a 90th-minute miss from Dembele ensuring Real Madrid and Barcelona were handed a boost.

A second coming for Cristiano Ronaldo in the Spanish capital?

After a trophy-laden spell with Real Madrid, Ronaldo made the switch to Juventus.

But Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer is reportedly keen on a second stint at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO EYEING MADRID REUNION

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to return to Real Madrid, according to the frontpage of Saturday's Diario AS.

Ronaldo's future with Juventus has been placed in doubt following the club's Champions League last-16 exit.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who left Madrid for Juve in 2018, has reportedly been in contact with Los Blancos for months.

 

ROUND-UP

- New Barcelona president Joan Laporta will offer superstar captain Lionel Messi a fresh contract in the coming weeks, reports Mundo Deportivo. The deal would include Messi – heavily tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City as a free agent at the end of the season – becoming a club ambassador after retirement. Laporta is also set to push ahead with moves for Bayern Munich's David Alaba, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and City forward Sergio Aguero.

City lead the race to sign Haaland, according to the Daily Mail. Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Manchester United, Chelsea, LiverpoolJuve, PSG, Barca and Madrid.

Joao Felix is also an option at the Etihad Stadium. Cuatro claims the Atletico Madrid star is a target if Aguero leaves City.

- Le10Sport claims PSG remain in talks with Neymar over a four-year contract extension. A deal is believed to be some way off.

Harry Maguire wants United to sign an English-speaking defender, reports The Transfer Window Podcast. The Red Devils have been linked with Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, Sevilla's Jules Kounde, RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly. But Brighton and Hove Albion's Ben White has emerged as a target.

- TMW Radio says Atletico could be set to make a move for Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz. The Spain international has been previously linked with Barca and Madrid.

Diego Simeone has clarified comments made regarding Joao Felix after recalling the forward for Atletico Madrid's 2-1 win against Athletic Bilbao.

Speaking on the eve of Wednesday's LaLiga clash at the Wanda Metropolitano, Simeone appeared to call into question the Portugal international's lack of work-rate.

"We are a team, not just one player," he told reporters. "We need everyone's contribution so that the team can function as a team, and that individuals and talent can excel."

Joao Felix has scored two goals in his past 16 games and was dropped to the bench for the 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the weekend, but he played 67 minutes against Athletic.

However, Simeone insists his remarks were misconstrued as he was talking in a more general manner, rather than about the 21-year-old specifically.

"Either I express myself badly, they interpret me badly or they just do what they want," he said at his post-match news conference.

"I speak of a general will. It is the most important thing in life; without it, the rest does not exist."

Atletico's win over Athletic in their game in hand moved them six points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga and a further two points in front of Real Madrid.

Iker Muniain gave the visitors the lead in the Spanish capital, but Marcos Llorente equalised in first-half stoppage time and Luis Suarez scored a penalty winner in the 51st minute.

It was just Atleti's second win in five matches in all competitions during a patchy spell and Simeone was pleased with the way they responded to a late setback against Madrid, when Karim Benzema equalised in the 88th minute.

"It was very important how they reacted after Sunday. We needed to return to winning ways at home," said Simeone, who has overtaken Luis Aragones for the most wins in charge of Atletico with 309 in all competitions.  

"What I liked the most was that it went from a bad moment with them the better team and well positioned, to us being on top. 

"The second half was very good, and we are now level with the others in terms of the number of games played."

Llorente's headed equaliser was his ninth LaLiga goal of the campaign, adding to his eight assists in what has been an impressive season for the Spain international.

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (26) is the only midfielder to have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top five leagues this term than Llorente, who has emerged as one of Atletico's star men over the past year.

"Marcos, for a year, had no minutes. He was on the bench but continued training, working hard and had that will that leads you to be at this moment," Simeone said. 

"He is very important for us and surely for the national team as well."

Suarez won the penalty that he converted – the striker being tripped in the box by Unai Nunez – and has now earned Atletico 15 points from his 18 league goals this term.

That is four points more than any other individual has won their side in the Spanish top flight in 2020-21, but Simeone reiterated Atleti's title charge is a collective effort.

"I look to the group as a whole because individuals alone do not change a game," he said. 

"The team understood that we were not having a good time – they looked for order and then the group and the team generated a second half that we liked a lot."

Athletic were unhappy with the awarding of the decisive penalty and also argued that Llorente's goal should not have stood, coming as it did 17 seconds after the allotted two added minutes.

Marcelino, whose side are without a point away to Atletico since May 2015, felt the scoreline was harsh on his side as the hosts scored two goals from five shots on target.

"I am very satisfied with the performance of my side and I'm sad with the result because Atletico essentially took advantage of one hundred percent of their chances," he said.

Atletico Madrid recovered from a goal behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday and move six points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Diego Simeone's men had won just one of their last four league matches, most recently drawing 1-1 with Real Madrid, but made their game in hand count to put some distance between themselves and Barcelona.

Marcos Llorente equalised for Atletico late in the first half after Iker Munian had opened the scoring and Luis Suarez converted a penalty he won early in the second period to put the hosts in front.

Atleti were far from their best but saw things through from that point to pick up a landmark 309th victory under Simeone in all competitions, seeing him surpass Luis Aragones with the most wins for the club.

Athletic have not picked up a point away to Atletico since May 2015 but they went ahead through their first attempt on target of the contest after 21 minutes.

Inaki Williams got in behind the home side's defence and pulled the ball back for Munian to miscue a shot past Jan Oblak from 12 yards.

Atletico gathered momentum towards the end of the first half and levelled in added time thanks to Llorente's header, which took a touch off Unai Nunez on its way through.

The turnaround was complete six minutes after the restart as Suarez sent Unai Simon the wrong way from the penalty spot after being tripped by Nunez.

Yannick Carrasco was unable to convert when set up by Suarez, who was taken off with 18 minutes to play in a defensive move from Simeone, but Nunez's header into the hands of Oblak was the closest the visitors came to an equaliser.
 

What does it mean? Atleti back on track on milestone occasion

Barca and Real Madrid had closed the gap on stuttering Atletico in recent weeks, but the pacesetters are now six points clear of Barca and a further two in front of Los Blancos. 

Simeone celebrated both goals wildly and the long-serving Atleti coach has more reasons than one to celebrate this victory, which leaves Atletico well on course for a first title since 2013-14.

He matched Aragones' win record with three points against Villarreal 10 days ago and has now surpassed the legendary manager with this latest triumph.

Llorente inspires Atletico

Suarez scored what proved to be the winner but Llorente deserves all the credit for dragging Atleti back on level terms - perhaps undeservedly - right at the end of the first half.

He has now been directly involved in 17 league goals this term, which is behind only Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (26) among midfielders in Europe's top five leagues.

Oblak beaten again

There was a point earlier this season when Atletico's defence looked impenetrable, but they have now conceded in 10 of their last 11 matches in all competitions.

Oblak was unable to keep out Munian's first-half strike, meaning he has now conceded in his last five home league games - the goalkeeper's worst run in seven years at the club.

What's next?

Atletico make the short trip to Getafe on Saturday, while Athletic are away to Celta Vigo the following day.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season, so where will he be playing in 2021-22?

The Milan and Italy goalkeeper – still in discussions with the Rossoneri – has attracted interest from across Europe.

Manchester United and Chelsea are reportedly circling.

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA WANTED IN ENGLAND

Manchester United and Chelsea are considering signing Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma as a free agent, according to The Transfer Window podcast.

Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season, though Tuttosport reports he and Milan remain in contract discussions.

Serie A champions Juventus and Ligue 1 titleholders Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

Sky Sports says United are also targeting Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak amid doubts over David de Gea's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich are eyeing Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. The United States international has found himself out of favour under new manager Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge.

- The wish list of new Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been revealed. Sport reports aside from Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Laporta is also targeting Sergio Aguero and Bayern star David Alaba, as well as in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Arsenal want to sign Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi as a replacement for Hector Bellerin, according to the Telegraph. Bellerin has been linked to PSG and Barca.

- Sport Bild reports Bundesliga champions Bayern will let veteran defender Jerome Boateng leave amid his links with Chelsea.

Barcelona prospect  Ilaix Moriba could be tempted away from the Catalan giants.

Ilaix, 18, made headlines with a goal in his third LaLiga appearance for the Blaugrana on Saturday.

But Barca have limited wage capacity and Ilaix has received "several offers".

 

TOP STORY – SEVERAL OFFERS FOR BARCA TEENAGER

Teenager Moriba has become instant hot property with "several offers" to tempt him away from Barcelona, according to Marca.

The Guinea-born midfielder's agent, whom he shares with Gareth Bale, is in drawn-out discussions with the club, the publication says.

Marca's report does not identify who the potential suitors are, but if Ilaix continues a breakout season, the interest will inevitably grow, giving the player and his representatives more bargaining power.

Manchester United were earlier this week linked with the youngster in Mundo Deportivo.

Diego Simeone said it was "a shame" Atletico Madrid could not see out victory over Real Madrid in Sunday's derby as he scoffed at those who predicted a runaway title triumph from his team.

A fine early strike from Luis Suarez after terrific work from Marcos Llorente put Atletico in the ascendancy on home soil, but they could not hold on to a narrow lead and Karim Benzema fired an 88th-minute equaliser to keep the visitors in with a sniff of a successful LaLiga defence.

Seconds before Benzema tucked the ball past Jan Oblak, Suarez attempted to play in Saul Niguez for a chance to double Atletico's lead, but the striker's pass was poorly executed.

It was a reminder of how quickly games can change, and it remains to be seen whether Benzema's goal proves a turning point in the season.

Atletico had been heading five points clear of second-placed Barcelona and eight ahead of Madrid, with a game in hand on both, but now those gaps are three and five points.

A return of nine points from Atletico's last six games has allowed the big two in Spain to close the gap on Simeone's pretenders to the throne.

The Atletico boss was asked whether a big opportunity had been missed and said: "I don't want to be extreme in what I say. I took away many important things.

"People thought we were going to win by 20 points, [but] we are playing against very powerful teams, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Sevilla.

"It is going to be a difficult road for all of us and we want to improve on what we did last season."

Atletico were third last term, finishing well behind champions Madrid and Barcelona, and the signing of Suarez from the Blaugrana has proved a masterstroke.

The Uruguayan's 17th LaLiga goal of the season was a delicious finish, and one of the positives Simeone might have pointed to.

Yet after losing to Madrid away from home earlier this season, Atletico appear to have a major problem with their city rivals.

It is now 10 successive LaLiga derbies without a win against Madrid for Simeone's side, who have drawn six of those games and been beaten in the other four.

At least this time they were the better side for a large part of the game, but Simeone must wait to overtake Luis Aragones as the coach with the most wins as Atletico boss. He remains on 308 – the same number former Spain boss Aragones achieved across four spells in charge.

"I am happy with the team's work until the 80th minute and it's a shame that we could not win a game that we wanted to win," Simeone said.

"From the negative side there is the draw in the last minutes on one of their two chances in the game and the positive side is the good game we played.

"We were well controlled, we played a good first half. In the second we started with the same tune, with chances to be able to close it out and we could not be forceful.

"We were playing a team with great footballers who always have this in the last minutes. We had more chances to win it than they did."

Zinedine Zidane declared Real Madrid "are alive" in a LaLiga title race that was given a stunning twist thanks to Karim Benzema's late equaliser against Atletico Madrid. 

Moments after Atletico threatened to go 2-0 ahead, Benzema drove the ball past Jan Oblak to earn a 1-1 draw that keeps Madrid clinging to hopes of a successful title defence. 

They are not as close as they would hope; five points off the pace having played one more game than Atletico means there is a mountain to climb. 

But that gap was almost eight points after Luis Suarez's early strike looked set to decide the derby, with Benzema's 88th-minute intervention a welcome reprieve for the visitors to the Wanda Metropolitano. 

"It is deserved, we had chances at the end. We could have scored more, but the good thing was we had a different second half and changed the game," Zidane told a post-game news conference. 

"It is a point, we are alive. We are going to keep fighting. It is a correct result, we believed until the end that it could be recovered."

Madrid thought they should have had a penalty late in the first half when a corner from Toni Kroos zipped across the six-yard box and struck Felipe on the arm, but referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez rejected the claims, even after viewing the incident on a touchline screen. 

Perhaps Zidane might have had a different view if Benzema had not equalised, but Madrid's head coach offered a phlegmatic post-game perspective. 

"His job is difficult. It is his decision, his responsibility. We have to respect that," Zidane said of the referee. "The players said it was a hand, he has reviewed it and decided not to whistle." 

Atletico are three points ahead of second-placed Barcelona but finished this game deflated, and their once-commanding lead has been whittled away in recent weeks. 

"We know there is a lot left," Zidane said. "Everything can always change, we are doing things well, we can improve. 

"I am very proud of all my players. We are in the same boat and we are going to fight to the end." 

Atletico have now gone 10 LaLiga derbies against Madrid without a win, drawing six of those games and losing four times. 

The result also means Real Madrid have not lost any of their four LaLiga games at Atletico's new home (W1 D3), and they remain the only team to have played in the stadium in the Spanish top flight without losing. 

Zidane also avoided a rare defeat to Diego Simeone, meaning the Atletico boss now has just one victory in nine matches (W1 D5 L3) against the Frenchman in LaLiga. That 11 per cent win record for Simeone is the Argentinian's worst against any manager he has faced at least four times in the competition. 

Ultimately, Real Madrid set out to bring home all three points, yet the one they left with felt almost like a win. 

Speaking to broadcaster Movistar, Zidane explained he was impressed by how greatly Madrid improved in the second half, after a shaky start to the game. 

"We had to be more aggressive, be higher, have more pressure. We had to be more alive on the pitch," he said. "You can get into a bad game, but then you have to change. 

"That's what we did in the second half, change at a general level, defensively and offensively. 

"They are a direct rival. We wanted all three points. The important thing is to turn the game around. Now we have to continue."

Karim Benzema's late equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at rivals Atletico Madrid and extended their unbeaten run in El Derbi to 10 LaLiga matches.

Atleti are the side in the ascendancy in Spain's top flight this season, but they have been second best in their own city in recent years and could not end a poor sequence in this fixture on Sunday.

Luis Suarez's 10th league strike against Madrid had appeared enough for a precious victory, yet missed chances came back to bite Diego Simeone's men as the long-serving Atleti coach was denied a club-record 309th win in the job.

Benzema, fit again to captain the side, marked his 371st LaLiga appearance – a record among Madrid's non-Spanish players – with an 88th-minute leveller to maintain the champions' interest in the title race.

Madrid stay third, five points behind Atleti, but Barcelona – winners against Osasuna on Saturday – are now within three of the leaders, who have one win in five in all competitions.

While Madrid have a hold over their neighbours, no player has scored more league goals against Los Blancos than Suarez since he moved to Spain in 2014 and the Uruguayan made the most of the game's first chance of note after 15 minutes.

Marcos Llorente beat Nacho on halfway and advanced to slide through a pass that met the well-timed run of Suarez, who shaped a fine low finish around Thibaut Courtois.

The first half was otherwise short of goalmouth action, although Madrid's appeals for handball by Felipe prompted a VAR review shortly before the break, only for referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez to stick with his original decision rather than awarding a penalty.

Courtois twice came to Lucas Vazquez's rescue at the start of the second period as he was exposed up against Yannick Carrasco, brilliantly blocking from both the rampaging winger and Suarez.

It appeared as though the brilliance of Atleti's own goalkeeper would ensure those stops would not scar the hosts as Jan Oblak stood tall to save from Benzema twice in quick succession and then parried clear the same man's free-kick.

But there was still time for Benzema to have the final say, granted an empty net when Casemiro squared in front of Oblak after Suarez had lost the ball up the field.

Karim Benzema's late equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at rivals Atletico Madrid and extended their unbeaten run in El Derbi to 10 LaLiga matches.

Atleti are the side in the ascendancy in Spain's top flight this season, but they have been second best in their own city in recent years and could not end a poor sequence in this fixture on Sunday.

Luis Suarez's 10th league strike against Madrid had appeared enough for a precious victory, yet missed chances came back to bite Diego Simeone's men as the long-serving Atleti coach was denied a club-record 309th win in the job.

Benzema, fit again to captain the side, marked his 371st LaLiga appearance – a record among Madrid's non-Spanish players – with an 88th-minute leveller to maintain the champions' interest in the title race.

Madrid stay third, five points behind Atleti, but Barcelona – winners against Osasuna on Saturday – are now within three of the leaders, who have one win in five in all competitions.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman says he will take an interest in Sunday's Madrid derby but is unfazed by the result as the LaLiga title race heats up.

The Catalans defeated Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday to extend their unbeaten LaLiga run to 16 matches and close to within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have two games in hand.

One of those is Sunday's Madrid derby where third-placed Real Madrid will also look to close within two points of Atletico with victory.

Atletico have wavered in recent matches, dropping points in three of their past five, opening the door for Barca and Madrid, although Koeman said he would be unfazed by the outcome.

"The derby in Madrid? The most important thing is our result," Koeman said.

"But of course we're interested in it. Any result would be good."

Jordi Alba and Guinea-born 18-year-old midfielder Ilaix Moriba netted the goals in Saturday's win at Osasuna.

The teenager was making just his third appearance in LaLiga, having come through Barcelona's famed academy.

"Ilaix is young, but is physically very strong," Koeman said. "He's gaining ground to be with the first team more often."

He added: "Ilaix scored a goal in a difficult match, with 0-2 we killed off the game. Every time Moriba enters the pitch he brings something extra.

"Players like Pedri, Ilaix, Riqui [Puig], [Ronald] Araujo and [Oscar] Mingueza are the future of the club.

"We're proud to be able to bring in young homegrown players. But we are not doing it because the fans want it, we're doing it because they deserve it."

French defender Samuel Umtiti was replaced at half-time by attacker Ousmane Dembele, a switch Koeman clarified.

"The substitution of Umtiti was tactical. We wanted to be in better control," he said.

"It's true he had a card but he wasn't applying pressure well. We improved in the second half."

Thibaut Courtois does not believe he is given enough recognition for his performances at Real Madrid in comparison to his time at Atletico Madrid.

After a difficult start to his Madrid career upon joining from Chelsea in 2018, Courtois has been one of Los Blancos' most consistent performers over the past two seasons.

He has kept 11 clean sheets in LaLiga this term – only Atletico's Jan Oblak has more with 12 – while no keeper has more shutouts (29) in the competition since the start of 2019-20, level with Oblak.

Courtois has been regularly praised by boss Zinedine Zidane for his game-saving heroics, but the 28-year-old does not believe his achievements are fully appreciated by everyone, particularly in his homeland.

The Belgium international, who spent three seasons with Atletico before joining Chelsea and then Madrid, told HLN: "I had three fantastic years at Atletico. I received praise from all over Belgium. I became Sportsman of the Year and I thought it was good.

"Today I have the feeling that everything I do has become normal. My performance in that game against Real Valladolid, I think, seemed like it didn't exist.

"It seems that continuing to play at a high level at the biggest club in the world is no longer worth the effort."

Courtois initially struggled to hold down a place in Madrid's starting line-up amid repeated criticism in his debut campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu.

But he helped Los Blancos to the LaLiga title last season and produced a number of fine saves in his side's penalty shoot-out win against Atletico in the Supercopa de Espana final.

However, Courtois was pipped to HNL's prestigious 'Best Belgian Player Abroad' award in 2019-20 by Inter striker Romelu Lukaku – a decision he admits was difficult to accept.

"When you see where I've come from at Real Madrid... I survived a tsunami there," said Courtois, who is expected to start for Madrid against former side Atleti on Sunday.

"In 2020 I won the Supercopa with a decisive save in the shoot-out. And then I read from analysts: 'Courtois deserves the Belgian of the Year trophy less than Lukaku, because he was always with the national team while Courtois withdrew a few times'.

"I can understand that Lukaku was given the award for Best Belgian Abroad, but I also deserved it. I was also not nominated for Athlete of the Year. 

"It's ridiculous. In fact, I feel more appreciation in Spain, and also outside of Spain, than in Belgium."

Zinedine Zidane described Karim Benzema as a "joy for football" as the Real Madrid boss prepared to welcome the striker back for Sunday's crucial derby with Atletico Madrid.

Madrid make the short trip to the Wanda Metropolitano with Los Blancos trailing their LaLiga-leading neighbours by five points, Atletico also having the benefit of a game in hand.

Having returned to training this week following an ankle injury that has kept him out since February 14, Benzema is back in the frame for a game that could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title.

"Karim is going to be with us," Zidane told a media conference. "We know what Karim is. Not just the matter of goals.

"He is an important player for us in our system and especially when we have the ball.

"He is special. What he does on the field... For people who like football, Benzema is a joy for football; for me, having him as a coach is a joy.

"He has been here for 10 years and has improved a lot. He is a fundamental player for us, for our team. He is a special player for all football fans, not just Madrid."

While Zidane will have Benzema at his disposal, he will be without Eden Hazard, the Belgium playmaker having not featured since January because of a muscle issue.

But Zidane denied reports Hazard had suffered a setback in his recovery.

"There is no relapse. We want him to be 100 per cent when he can return," added Zidane. "This is what he is doing, little by little, without haste.

"We know how important he is in our team, but we have to go with how he feels. It is important that, when he returns, he feels strong and 100 per cent.

"We are not going to risk anything on his return. He is progressing very well, and I hope that next week maybe he can be with us for good."

Benzema could make a crucial difference for Madrid, though.

In the 21 league games in which he has featured this season, Madrid have won 15, drawn three and lost three. In the four games in which he has been absent, Madrid have won one, drawn two and lost one, averaging a point less across those matches.

They have averaged almost a goal per game more (1.9 to 1.0) with Benzema in the line-up compared to when he has not been available, the Frenchman having found the net 12 times in LaLiga this term.

However, even if Madrid are defeated by Atletico, Zidane will not see it as a death knell for their hopes of retaining the title.

"We play another game, three points at stake," said Zidane. "It is a final, but like all games. When we play we always have to win.

"Whatever happens, we will stay alive in La Liga. We are focused on playing a good game and nothing else. If we play well, that is the most important thing for us."

Diego Simeone sees no reason to think the LaLiga title race could be over if Atletico Madrid beat Real Madrid on Sunday.

Atleti head into the derby at the Wanda Metropolitano with a five-point lead at the top of the table over their city rivals and Barcelona and a game in hand on both.

Simeone's men lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in December but then went on a run of nine consecutive league wins to put them in a commanding position at the top.

However, dropped points last month against Levante (twice) and Celta Vigo allowed Madrid and Barca to close the gap and a third home defeat in a row in all competitions would truly reignite a three-way title battle.

The omens are not good for Atletico, either, as they are on a nine-game winless run against Madrid in LaLiga, have failed to score in the last 355 minutes of that sequence and have yet to beat Los Blancos in the top flight at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Madrid have also found form away from home of late, winning each of their last three league games on the road, one short of their best run set under Zinedine Zidane last July.

Simeone, who has won just 12.5 per cent of league matches against Zidane, does not believe ending their poor recent derby record will be enough to consider the title race is in their hands.

"It's a really beautiful championship and all the important teams are seeking the best positions in the table," he said on Saturday.

"It's a top-of-the-table game, a direct game between two teams fighting for similar positions, but they're three points. There's still a long way to go in LaLiga and we'll try to take the game where we want so we can cause some damage.

"A few games ago, we were talking about a league where Real Madrid and Barcelona had no chance, and look where they are now. We know how difficult this championship is."

Joao Felix has begun to find form of late, the €126million man having scored a superb second in Atletico's 2-0 win at Villarreal last time out.

Simeone has yet to decide whether to start the talented Portugal youngster alongside Luis Suarez or to go with the more hard-working Angel Correa.

"Joao and Angel have different characteristics," he said. "Angel gives us more dynamism in the team's collective work, with a lot more directness in his play, and Joao has a special talent that can produce something nobody else has and, from the point of view of the number of goals, Joao's are very good.

"The competition is very good, very healthy, very beautiful. The two will play: one will start, and another will have to wait, but certainly both will play."

The last derby was a rare off-day for Atletico Madrid – and for Luis Suarez.

On a run of seven wins in a row and two goals conceded, with no LaLiga defeats all season, Diego Simeone's men were second best in a 2-0 defeat last December. As for Suarez, his 73 minutes on the pitch yielded a single, wayward shot.

Still, that result turned out to be an aberration. Three months on, Atleti head into Sunday's game at the Wanda Metropolitano with a five-point lead over Real Madrid and Barca at the top of the table, and with a game in hand. Suarez, meanwhile, has scored 11 of his 16 LaLiga goals this term since that chastening day at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Suarez's form for Atleti has made a complete mockery of Barca's decision to cast him aside last year, the suggestion the striker was "too old" to be relied upon looking more foolish by the week as he spearheads their charge for a first league title since 2014.

Indeed, given his record against Madrid and the state of the league table, this weekend could be the moment Suarez tips the balance of the title race inexorably in Atletico's favour.

 

OLD HABITS

It wasn't simply being told to leave by Barca that left Suarez so incensed; it was being made to feel he was no longer good enough for "a great team".

"That's what I did not like," he told France Football. "If I hadn't done anything at a club like Barca for three or four seasons, I would have understood.

"But, every year at Barca, I scored more than 20 goals per season. I have always had good statistics, just behind Leo [Messi]."

So he is again. Suarez's 16 goals in 21 league games this term puts him second in the top-scorer standings, three behind Messi. Add in assists, and only his old team-mate (23) has had more direct goal involvements than Suarez (18) in LaLiga this season.

While Suarez is no longer as explosive as he was at Liverpool and in his earlier Barca years, he has lost little of his ruthlessness. Discounting the two penalties he has converted this term, Suarez has scored 14 times from an expected goals value of just 9.6. That differential of 4.4 is the biggest in the division, save for that of 'El Comandante', Levante's 33-year-old star striker Jose Luis Morales (5.0).

It follows that Suarez has a shot conversion rate (including blocked shots) of 23.9, the fourth-highest figure for any LaLiga player with at least 10 goals this season, the best being Roger Marti with 31.3.

The Uruguayan also boasts a big chance conversion rate of 63.2 per cent, having scored 12 out of 19 this term. No player to have scored from at least 10 big chances can match that success rate. That cutting edge in a team that has conceded just 16 league goals in 24 matches is a potent combination.

 

CAN SUAREZ STOP THE DERBY ROT?

Atleti followed December's derby defeat by winning 10 of their next 12 games, the only slip-ups being a Copa del Rey shock at Cornella and a 2-2 home draw with Celta Vigo on February 8 (in which Suarez scored twice).

However, including that result, they have won only twice in their past five league matches, a run that has emboldened Barca and Madrid's title hopes and left fans wondering whether 'Hay Liga' after all.

A dip in form before a derby is never positive, but Atleti in particular need no extra pessimism. They have not won any of the most recent nine league meetings with Madrid, their longest run without a victory under Diego Simeone, and they have not even scored in the previous three. Only once in their history have they gone four league derbies without a goal.

Madrid are also the only team to play a league match at the Wanda Metropolitano without ever losing (one win, two draws), with Simeone having won only 12.5 per cent of league games against opposite number Zinedine Zidane, his worst return against any coach from at least four meetings.

But Suarez has happy memories of facing Los Blancos. Although he's gone two games without scoring against them, his goal record overall reads nine scored in 12 league appearances versus Madrid, the most of any player since his first season in Spain in 2014-15.

What's more, he has an all-important side-kick back in form.

 

JOAO, THAT'S IMPRESSIVE

Joao Felix's sublime strike against Villarreal secured a valuable three points for Atleti last time out and ended his own month-long goal drought. He responded with a stony-faced 'shushing' celebration, to which a delighted Simeone responded: "I love it when players rebel."

Simeone will be desperate to see his €126m man in a similar mood come Sunday. Not only is he Atleti's most exciting individual talent, but he's also the man who has brought the best out of Suarez this season.

Joao Felix has created eight chances for Suarez in LaLiga in 2020-21, more than any other Atleti player. Of his four assists, three have been for the former Ajax man; only Marcos Llorente has provided as many for Atleti's number nine.

Perhaps Suarez has found a kindred spirit in Joao Felix: supremely talented, decisive, and "rebellious". What better double act to deploy in the Atleti's most important LaLiga derby in seven years?

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