Red-hot Atletico hopes to end Real jinx
MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Atletico Madrid’s Turkish midfielder Arda Turan is on a good form this season, having scored five goals in 13 matches at La Liga. Arda admits that Real Madrid is the favorite for the derby but Atletico holds no fear.Atletico Madrid takes on local rival Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Dec. 1, aiming to pile up the pressure on under-fire coach Jose Mourinho whose team already trails leader Barcelona by 11 points. It is the first time in almost 14 years that Atletico takes on its illustrious neighbor with more points in La Liga. The team is second with an eight-point lead over a stuttering Real who was beaten once again last weekend by Real Betis.
The last time Atletico beat Real Madrid in a league game was in 1999. In the following 21 meetings between the two teams, Real won 15 times, while six games ended in a draw.
With 34 points from 13 matches, Atletico trails Barcelona by three points. On Dec. 1, Atletico will not only try to end its 13-year jinx, but it will also try to end the defending champion’s title hopes, turning the La Liga title chase into a two-horse race.
Turkish attacker Arda Turan, in his second season with Atletico, is on a convincing form this year, having scored five goals in 13 matches.
Arda, along with fellow Turkish midfielder Emre Belözoğlu, is the main reason why Atletico’s games are being more closely watched in Turkey this season.
Speaking to Turkish sports channel NTV Spor, Arda said that Atletico has nothing to fear at Santiago Bernabeu.
“We need to be realistic: Real Madrid is the favorite for this game. They have some of the world’s best players, but still, they are human after all,” said Arda. “The 13-year jinx is not something that we are thinking about. We are not afraid of them and we will do what we always do: Play to win, or get one point at least.”
Another big factor in Atletico’s fine start to the campaign is the form of Radamel Falcao, who has hit 14 goals in 13 games and he is now geared up for the derby.
“I don’t feel as much pressure as motivation. We play a great side and it will be a high-tempo match but we will go out looking to win,” he said.
Despite winning the league last season, Mourinho is coming under fire from a demanding Madrid media who are speculating whether he will be still at the helm next summer.
The Portuguese flatly denies he is feeling the strain.
“I have perfect health and I am working as I have done for many years,” he said. “I am just an employee of the club and it is they who decide if they are happy with what they have but I have a very, very, very good relationship with the president and the board.”
Atletico hopes to make it to the Champions League, at least to keep Falcao, its biggest superstar, who has previously stated that he wants to play in the top-level European club competition.
Falcao in top form
Falcao’s irresistible form has drawn strong interest from Premier League giants Manchester City and Chelsea, with the latter discovering first-hand how lethal he can be following his treble against the European champions in August’s UEFA Super Cup. The Madrid derby will be a clash between Falcao and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the most prolific goal-scorers on the planet.
While Falcao’s return of 24 league goals a year ago, his first season in La Liga since leaving Porto, paled in comparison to Ronaldo’s haul of 46, the Colombian has closed the gap this season. His 11 goals are just one goal shy of Ronaldo’s tally.
Barcelona takes on Athletic Bilbao aiming to maintain its prolific start, which has seen the Catalan giants only drop two points so far in the Clasico against Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi has hit 19 goals in the league and is only three away now from former-Germany striker Gerd Müller’s record of 85 in a calendar year.
“Messi is the best player in the world but there are other footballers with great qualities like Xavi (Hernandez) and (Andres) Iniesta who are not far behind,” said midfielder Thiago Alcantara.
Malaga responded to a dip in form with a convincing 4-0 win over Valencia last weekend and now plays Getafe.