Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid: 4 things to watch on Matchday 13

Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Alejandro Rios/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Alejandro Rios/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Toni Kroos
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

Another masterclass from Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos is a player who is easy to overlook, because his role in the team is all about helping others succeed, especially when Real Madrid are progressively passing or building up from the back. He is the man who directs traffic, makes sure Real are keeping their width in their passing, and presses to recover the ball back quickly.

In many ways, Kroos is the heart of Real Madrid as the director of the midfield. He makes everyone around him better, even if sometimes that seems imperceptible.

But in the win over Borussia Monchengladbach, Kroos’ importance should have been blatantly obvious, just as it was in Real’s big win over Inter Milan earlier in the Champions League.

Kroos had five key passes and three fouls drawn against Gladbach, per He completed nearly 97 percent of his 93 passes, including 15 attempted long balls. The German international was marvelous. Gladbach could not dispossess him, and it was rare for him to misplace a pass despite the progressive – or pressured – nature of most of his passes.

Atletico Madrid will be a much bigger challenge to Real and Kroos than a Gladbach side that was admittedly way off their game on Wednesday night. Diego Simeone will clog up the midfield, suffocate passing lanes, and force Kroos to be at his cerebral best. Once again, Kroos could prove to be the most important man on the pitch for Real.

He may not dominate like he did vs. Gladbach, but a performance akin to his underrated, calm display at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan would go a long way for Real Madrid.