Real Madrid CF are on a mission to secure the La Liga Santander title early, and they are aiming to strengthen their grip on the trophy by defeating defending champions Atletico Madrid when they face off at the Madrid Derby on Sunday.

The reigning champions are currently ten points adrift of Los Blancos on the table, and will be approaching the derby on the back foot after having just lost 2-1 against mid-table club Real Mallorca on Saturday. They can potentially shave off some points from the gap because of their game in hand, but Real Madrid are determined to ride high on their momentum.

The city rivals will face off at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium next weekend, with the hosts hoping to come with all guns blazing. However, star striker Karim Benzema is in doubt after limping off with a knock against Real Sociedad a few days ago. He will be rested for the Champions League match against Inter Milan in midweek, with manager Carlo Ancelotti hoping that he will recover from the minor injury in time to be available to face Atletico.

Even without Benzema, Vinicius Junior has been a complete revelation this season, with Rodrygo Goes also bringing the goods when needed. In the absence of Benzema for most of the match against La Real, Luka Jovic also stepped up to the plate with a goal and an assist. Needless to say, Ancelotti will have a number of options available even if the Frenchman needs to sit this one out.

Los Blancos have registered an eight-match winning streak in all competitions, taking down Elche, Shakhtar Donetsk, Rayo Vallecano, Granada, Sheriff Tiraspol, Sevilla, Athletic Club and Real Sociedad. They will be hoping to secure top spot in their Champions League group with a win against Inter on Tuesday.

Back to La Liga, Real Madrid have 39 points and are eight points clear of Sevilla in second place, although the latter still have a game in hand. Real Betis are nine points behind on the same number of matches played, while both Atletico and Real Sociedad are 10 points behind.

Real Madrid have an advantage, but we are only midway through the season and the title is by no means secure. A win against the title holders will surely stamp their authority over the field. Carlo Ancelotti has been dong well to lead the club to 16 victories and three draws with only two losses in 21 games this season.

Luka Jovic
Luka Jovic of Real Madrid Getty Images | Alejandro/DeFodi Images