Reigning Spanish La Liga champions Real Madrid CF will be facing a do-or-die match when they come up against current leaders Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
Los Blancos missed a golden opportunity over the weekend when they only managed a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad. They now sit in third place with 53 points, five behind leaders Atletico. The draw also gave FC Barcelona the opportunity to go level on points and to take the second spot.
If Real Madrid won that match and manage to win on Sunday, they would have taken the top spot away from Atletico. However, they did not take full advantage and now have a more difficult title defence ahead of them.
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane acknowledges the setback but knows that all is not lost. There are some positive things to look forward to when the derby rolls around. First, Nacho and Rafael Varane's partnership appears to have solidified in the absence of Sergio Ramos.
The captain has been sidelined by a knee injury, and the defence has always been shaky without him. Finally, it looks like Varane and Nacho have started to gain confidence while playing alongside each other and they demonstrated this in the match against Sociedad.
The injury-ridden squad has been left without a large number of key players apart from Ramos. Dani Carvajal made a premature comeback that led to him exacerbating his injury. Luckily, both Rodrygo Goes and Fede Valverde appear to be fully fit and back in action.
Midfield sensation Toni Kroos has also remained consistent and healthy this season, always creating a threat against any opponent.
Sunday's derby will be played at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, Atletico's home turf. This makes no difference for Real, who have not really been taking any home advantage from playing at the Alfredo di Stefano this season. They have already lost three and drawn one match at home.
Lastly, matches are won with goals and Real Madrid is at risk of being without any of their main strikers on Sunday. Mariano has been diagnosed with a muscle injury. Karim Benzema has also missed a number of games, but is expected to return for the derby. Hopefully, he has fully recovered and will not run the risk of making things worse, just like Carvajal.