Real Madrid: Pre-Derby Interview With Into The Calderon’s Robbie Dunne

Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid. (Photo by Visionhaus)
Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid. (Photo by Visionhaus) /

Real Madrid will face Atletico Madrid in a crucial derby at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday. For this special occasion, we reached out to Robbie Dunne of Into the Calderon, the SB Nation site for Atletico Madrid.

Hridyam Arora: Atletico have been a little out of form as of late. Since this match is so important, what do you think the atmosphere would be like? Would they go in aggressively? Or, will they have a similar game-plan to what they usually go for?

Robbie Dunne: I don’t think so and I think sitting back is smart, to begin with especially in light of Madrid’s draw with Real Sociedad. Maybe they will spend the first half waiting to see if Madrid will beat themselves because the onus is on them to make up the points. A draw for Atletico on Sunday is a good result but I don’t advocate defending deep for the duration. We have seen before that adopting a defensive attitude can sometimes mean a complete lack of ambition and if they go 1-0 down, it is hard to change that attitude during a game.

Hridyam: To the readers who haven’t followed Marcos Llorente’s drastic change in playing style, what can we expect to see from him? How important is he and how has Simeone changed his game? What kind of player has he become and how do you think Real Madrid will have to deal with him?

Robbie: Llorente is just so full of energy and does so many things well that he is hard to describe. His dribbling is excellent, he is tenacious, gets in good attacking positions, has the steel Simeone requires. The problem with not being any one thing specifically can sometimes mean he is a little bit of everything and Simeone has been moving him around a lot. He has played at right-back, right midfield, central midfield, second striker and he can do those things because of his energy but he loses something when he doesn’t have the consistency to really develop at one position.

Hridyam: Tell us your quick thoughts about the incredible midfield partnership of Modric and Kroos. How do you think they’ve played this season, and how will Atletico deal with them?

Robbie: I look at Modric and can’t see any signs of him slowing down. Kroos was never athletic, to begin with, and age might take its toll on his ability to cover counter-attackers but Modric, in his position, is still perfectly suited to that role. He hasn’t really lost a step because he never needed one, to begin with. His decision-making and seeing of danger are other-worldly. I know he won’t but I think he could play at this level for another five years. I’m not sure what Atletico do with them. They have options and maybe playing Kondogbia to prevent them from breaking through the middle line might be an option.

Hridyam: What do you think happens if Zidane decides to go with a diamond, what would Atleti do to overcome it?

Robbie: One of the players Atletico have to be most worried about is Fede Valverde. He could cause any team problems with his direct running. I think Simeone might match a diamond with Kondogbia sitting deep, Koke and Llorente on either side of him and Felix working hard to move Casemiro around the place.

Hridyam: Atleti really struggled against Chelsea in the first leg of the Round of 16. What were their biggest issues and what would they learn from that match that they can apply to the title race, especially when they play La Liga’s best sides?

Robbie: I’m not entirely sure but I think intensity has been an issue for Spanish teams in general. The disconnect between the midfield and attack another one. They’re also missing a couple of their best players and that might improve with the return of Trippier and Carrasco and with Felix releasing some of the negativity surrounding him with that goal and celebration against Villarreal.

Hridyam: The way the reverse fixture panned out, what will be different this time around? Both in terms of tactics and individual form, like with Felix and Suarez being almost invisible in the game. What would be different this time?

Robbie: I think Atletico didn’t start well and the first half was a complete disaster. Hector Herrera wasn’t very good and neither was Carrasco. When you look at the stats from that game, Atletico weren’t really that bad and Carvajal’s goal killed the game. After that, Atletico had chances. I think Simeone’s biggest issue is and has been, taking the initiative. He is stuck between seeing Atletico as a fiery underdog and being a genuine world-class team. I don’t want to sound too much like a manager but you have to respect Real Madrid without letting them walk all over you or else you’re in for a difficult 90 minutes. Finding that balance is the issue for Simeone.

Hridyam: Aside from Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, which Real Madrid player worries you the most right now, assuming that Benzema doesn’t start?

Robbie: As I said, if Valverde plays, he completely unbalances your midfield and gets into spaces, not unlike Llorente or Frenkie de Jong for Barcelona. Casemiro is a big-game player but after that, in the attack, there’s nobody that Real Madrid have this season that is truly unstoppable from a tactical perspective. Vinicius’ speed is a concern, of course, but his finishing is erratic and his confidence, along with his associations with teammates, hasn’t been great this season.

Hridyam: What do you think would the line-up be and what’s your score prediction?

Robbie: I have absolutely no idea on the line-up. Atletico have been hit with injuries, poor form and a number of changes around the middle to try and stop the poor form. I think we will see a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Thank you very much to Robbie for graciously taking the time to answer our questions about Atletico Madrid and the match. Again, you can follow him on Twitter here and read up on the enemy at Into the Calderon here.