Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Atletico out to break dismal duck
Working-class side would love to beat Real
It isn't every day that Real Madrid go into El Derbi Madrile±o playing catch-up.
One of the most successful, valuable and highest-spending outfits in club football, Madrid is used to operating on a completely different level than local rivals Atl©tico -- the working-class side from the south of the city that was forced to sell its best player during a summer that typified the gulf in reality between the two.
While Atl©tico were in the process of cashing-in on Monaco-bound Radamel Falcao, Madrid was negotiating the Ç¨100 million acquisition of Gareth Bale that established a new transfer record -- the fifth in succession set by Los Blancos.
Madrid also spent nearly Ç¨60 million to bring in midfielders Isco and Asier Illarramendi. Atl©tico's summer transfer bill? Not quite Ç¨20 million spread between three players.
Not that the spending disparities have been reflected in the standings so far this season.
Going into this weekend's seventh round of Primera Division matches, Atl©tico are a perfect 6-0-0, are averaging three goals per outing, possess the second-best defensive record in the country and, most importantly, are level with Barcelona atop the table --two points clear of Real Madrid.
Earlier this month, they also won their Champions League Group Stage opener against Zenit St. Petersburg and on Tuesday will be in Portugal for an all-Iberian contest against Porto at the Drag£o.
But none of Los Colchoneros (Atl©tico are nicknamed "The Mattress-makers" because their shirts resemble a traditional Spanish mattress pattern) will be looking any further than today's derby against their famous neighbours.
Last spring, they beat Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey, and they're confident that experience will serve them well as they look to end a 13-year winless run against their city counterparts in La Liga.
"We know how to beat them," crowed Atl©tico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in a Thursday television interview. "I think that the whole team can maintain the current level."
To topple their opponents Atl©tico will be counting on yet another prolific display from forward Diego Costa, whose seven goals so far this term have him level with Lionel Messi at the head of the Spanish scoring chart.
Costa, who this week revealed he may switch his international representation to Spain from his native Brazil, was one of the goalscorers in Atl©tico's Copa victory last May and in a Friday article in Spanish daily Marca was contrasted favourably with Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, who he is currently outscoring.
"Ronaldo is a precise placer of the ball, a James Bond," the article read. "Costa," it continued, "uses a dagger. He likes to get close and go in hard, leaving blood, sweat and tears behind him."
The personal duel between Costa and Ronaldo could well end up being the decisive factor in today's match--one Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez is aware his side has to win if they're to keep the pressure on Barcelona.
"We can't afford any slip-ups in any games, and especially not in our stadium," he told a Friday press conference, adding, "We're up against a great team that can be a real danger on their day."
The thing is, those days have become more and more frequent in recent times, and if Atl©tico can have another of them today they'll finally break a duck that has haunted them for over a decade.
Since Atl©tico were promoted from the Segunda in 2002 they have never beaten Madrid in La Liga.
-- On Friday Turkish authorities announced they had detained 72 people suspected of blackmail and armed threats. Each of the 72 are affiliated with Istanbul's biggest clubs -- Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray -- and are part of a powerful, often violent fan culture in Turkey. Last weekend's derby between Galatasaray and Besiktas was abandoned after the pitch was invaded by supporters.
-- Fifpro, the international association of professional footballers, has rebuked Qatar for its inhuman treatment of migrant workers employed at many of its World Cup stadium sites. The organization cited the workers' denial of drinking water, unpaid wages and "systematic forced labour" as grounds for FIFA to take punitive action against the country to which it awarded the 2022 World Cup.
email@example.com Twitter @JerradPeters
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2013 C8
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