Derbies are always special, for they add an extra layer of tension to an atmosphere which almost, always, puts you on the edge. And with Real Madrid hosting Atletico Madrid on Saturday, thestatesman.com has lined up a 4-3-3 formation for you (Yes, Real Madrid do not play a 4-4-2, but for the sake of this article, we assumed they do!).
Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak
Keylor Navas is a decent goalkeeper, but he makes the odd clanger and Real don't think of him as, well, Real material (David de Gea, we are looking at you!). The 24-year-old Oblak has really impressed in his three years with the Rojiblancos and the Slovenian has 11 clean sheets compared to Navas’ 4, a stat to be lauded even if one takes into the fact that both teams have vastly contrasting styles.
Left Back: Marcelo
A perfect exponent of Real’s cavalier approach, Marcelo just about edges this ahead of Atletico’s Felipe Luis. Both the Brazilians have a distinctly different approach to the game, with Marcelo clearly ahead of his compatriot from an offensive standpoint while Luis is more defensively sound. However, Marcelo’s speed on the counter has been key in many crunch games for Real and the 28-year-old has improved his defensive qualities which see him edge this individual round.
Centre Back: Sergio Ramos
Need a goal? Call Sergio Ramos. Most Atletico fans still have nightmares about Ramos’ late goal in the 2014 Champions League final. He’s gone from strength to straight for Los Blancos since then and there are plenty of reasons for his being in the FIFA FIFPro World XI for five years in a row. His goals tally has crossed the double figure mark and while some may say he is unnecessarily rash, Ramos pros far outweigh his cons.
Centre Back: Diego Godin
With Pepe too inconsistent and Raphael Varane almost-always injured, Diego Godin had to make the team. Maybe if Varane had been in top form, it could have been close but for now the non-nonsense 31-year-old from Rosario is miles ahead of the rest. A hard but fair defender, he even pops up with the odd goal from set-pieces.
Right Back: Juanfran
Another difficult decision, as Real’s Dani Carvajal has impressed this season but Juanfran’s overall defensive qualities sees him pip his countryman. The epitome of reliability, he hardly ever has a bad game and despite lack of pace, more than makes amends with his positional skills.
Left Midfield: Koke
Koke, perhaps, benefits by the formation for this combined XI as Madrid do not have a player who plays in such a position. And the one who could, Gareth Bale, has been injured for too long in the season to make a serious shout. An underrated player outside of Spain, he may not be the fastest, but his superb technical ability enables him to hold his own in this sterling XI.
Centre Midfield: Casemiro
The player to give this team that much needed steel, the Brazilian is among the best defensive midfielders around. High praise, perhaps, but time and time again the 25-year-old has come up big in a vital game. He has come into his own under Zinedine Zidane. Atletico captain Gabi was the alternative for this position, but the Spaniard is no match for Casermiro, at least at this stage of his career.
Centre Midfield: Saul Niguez
One of Atletico’s finest jewels and coveted by all of Europe, Niguez is a bundle of talent. While he may not score as many goals as we would like, when they come they are darn special (Ask a certain Bavarian team if you don't believe it!). Toni Kroos, Madrid’s alternative in this position, would feel aggrieved but the German’s languid style is no match for Niguez’s unique blend of craft and graft.
Right Midfield: Yannick Carrasco
Carrasco has improved remarkably and the fact that he has become a regular starter for Diego Simeone’s this season speaks for itself. Luka Modric was considered for this role and while the Croatian is among the finest central midfielders around, Carrasco’s pace alone makes him the prime candidate for this position. He isn't just about speed. The Frenchman has a good work rate and a keen eye for goal as well.
Centre Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Undaunted by the worst season of his career, he still managed to score 19 goals in the league alone. The Portuguese’s superlative talents may be on the wane at 32, yet he remains a potent threat and on the bulk of the sheer goals he scores, coasts into this XI. Atletico’s attacking options, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres, never stood a chance.
Centre Forward: Antoine Griezmann
A man who might just be moving to greener pastures in the summer, but for the moment plays for the Red and White half of Madrid. Had Bale not suffered such a long injury lay-off, perhaps he could have pushed for a spot. But as things stand, the 26-year-old from Macon makes the cut. He is often the only source of goals for his team and is an outside contender for the 2017 FIFA Ballon d’Or at the moment, such is his scalding form.
Final Score: Real 4, Atletico 7