Atlético Madrid vs Real Madrid, history, reality, influenza...

The flu being suffered by Adrían and Falcao, the existence of Luis Perea in defence, Diego Simeone’s limited tactical preparation of yelling "Passion! Grit! Cojones!" at his players, 13 years of failure at the Vicente Calderón, a spooked Real Madrid in no mood to mess about... these are just some of the dark forces aligning against Atlético Madrid in El Derbi – a game that could well start on Wednesday and finish on Thursday should there be any injuries, due to an insanely late kick-off time of 22.00 on a school night.

Although an awful lot of the focus is on Real Madrid’s faltering form in recent big games against Málaga and Valencia, there should be more musings on Atlético’s la Liga journey of late, a topsy-turvy one compared to their wonderfully smooth passage, as it were, in Europe.

Using a football manager’s favourite cliché, Atleti will have to give it around 94% if the team are to hold back their opponents and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, who seems to actively enjoy and be motivated by the abuse routinely hurled at him from the stands. The problem for the Rojiblancos is that their performance levels in the last game against Levante were at around 12%, what with conceding after just 58 seconds.

The Wednesday worries for Atletico are their tendency for sluggish starts and their visitors' ability to blast teams away in the opening minutes. The hosts' hopes of a Champions League finish are disappearing faster than Javier Clemente’s friends in Gijón.

On an administrative point, LLL’s must now refer to Real Madrid as Aitor Karanka’s men, considering José Mourinho skipped his third consecutive press conference – due to being upset by refereeing decisions, claim Marca. The first of those was before the Valencia game had even taken place, making the blog believe the Portuguese is part of some kind of Minority Report-style refereeing pre-crime unit.

So, Karanka’s men are now merely a point clear after Barcelona comfortably dispatched Getafe 4-0 in a match that LLL was predicting might be a tad tough for the Catalan club. The blog still isn’t entirely sure why it came up with that crazy notion. As usual Pep Guardiola was trying to get everyone to calm down a little, pointing out that an upcoming trip to Levante might not be the cakewalk everyone seems to think it will be.

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Barcelona’s win against Getafe was the third of the matches played on Tuesday. Earlier on, Osasuna beat Europa League rivals Espanyol 2-0, a much-needed win after shipping 11 goals in their last two matches. “We had a debt and now it’s been closed,” announced a satisfied José Luis Mendilibar. Real Sociedad – with another goal from Carlos Vela – and Real Betis played out a 1-1 draw that keeps both sides out of the relegation battle for a bit longer.

Also in action on Wednesday, Valencia host a feisty Rayo Vallecano, who won’t be squatting on their laurels despite being two points from probable safety. “The fans demand a team that defend the badge and that’s what I want to,” promised manager José Ramón Sandoval.

Málaga’s win at Racing on Monday sees Team Unai being pushed into fourth. A failure to beat Rayo – quite possible – and a victory for Levante against Sporting – very possible – would see Valencia being shoved into fifth spot. If so, not even a handy result against Real Madrid and qualification to the Europa League semi-finals would prevent a hanky-waving hammering for Emery and his players in Mestalla.

LLL PredictionsValencia v Rayo - Home winGranada v Athletic Bilbao - Away winSporting v Levante - DrawAtlético Madrid v Real Madrid  - Away win (1-3)