Atletico confident of rare Madrid derby win

Atletico Madrid believes a repeat of its performance against English leader Chelsea could see the team win the Spanish capital derby against Real Madrid on Saturday.

Atletico fell out of the Champions League following Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea, but the club played one of its best games of the season under coach Quique Sanchez Flores, who has been in charge for three games since replacing Abel Resino.

Atletico is confident it can earn a first derby victory in over 10 years at the Vicente Calderon stadium against a Madrid side which will again be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo.

“How we are playing in this moment, it’s obligatory to take the three points,” Atletico winger Simao Sabrosa said. “We know we’re talking about a really strong opponent, but let’s see if for once we can beat Madrid at our stadium.”

Despite the absence of the former Manchester United forward, Madrid’s own performances have picked up in the last week with Saturday’s league win over Getafe and then a 1-1 draw at AC Milan on Tuesday, following a home loss to the Serie A side in their previous Champions League game.

“The best thing is that we’ve demonstrated in the last two games that we want to vindicate ourselves after the disastrous week we had,” Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain said. “It’s important to take advantage of Atletico’s lackluster moment because we’re only one point back of the leader.”

Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini had hoped Ronaldo would recover in time for Saturday’s match, but his right ankle injury is proving more serious than first expected and he is consulting the specialist who operated on it last year. Pellegrini will also be without defender Raul Albiol, who is suspended for the game.

Atletico striker Sergio Aguero, who scored both goals against Chelsea, will also be available despite a leg muscle worry.

After nine rounds, Barcelona leads the league with 23 points, one better than Madrid. Sevilla is third with 19 points and Valencia has 18. Atletico is 18th with seven points.

Barcelona welcomes fifth-place Mallorca to the Camp Nou on Saturday looking for improvement after two straight draws, including a 0-0 result at Rubin Kazan on Wednesday which has left the European champions trailing in third place in its Champions League group.

Daniel Alves returned from a leg injury to play against the Russian champions, but Lionel Messi’s form continues to frustrate fans. The winger has scored just once in six games and his play has lacked spark since returning from a deflating World Cup qualifying spell with Argentina.

With Messi’s drop-off in play, Barcelona has struggled to put games away, with the Spanish champions drawing two of their past three league games. But Mallorca has yet to record an away win despite its impressive start.

“There’s no reason for people to be worried,” Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said.

Now that Sevilla has qualified for the knockout round of the Champions League, it can focus its attention on staying in the league race with Barcelona and Madrid when it plays Villarreal on Sunday.

The “Yellow Submarine” has won its last two league games after a winless start, but will be without Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla (hernia) and striker Nilmar (suspended).

Elsewhere, Racing Santander coach Juan Carlos Mandia is under pressure to beat Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Also Saturday, Deportivo La Coruna is at Getafe and Tenerife welcomes last-place Malaga. On Sunday, it’s: Valladolid vs. Xerez; Sporting Gijon vs. Espanyol; Almeria vs. Osasuna; and Valencia vs. Zaragoza.