1. This 2019 Madrid derby is one of changing perceptions. After signing Joao Felix for nine figures, it was Atletico Madrid who flexed their financial muscle over the transfer window compared to a relatively tame, quiet nature Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane admitted that Real Madrid will also be seen as the rich club with Atleti branded as the working class champion, regardless of spending. Zidane also wanted the world to know that people in Madrid “work a lot” regardless of their team affiliation. 
  2. Diego Simeone’s side started off the season with three consecutive wins, raising expectations that this may be their title-winning season. Zidane was rumored to be on the hot seat even last week, with Jose Mourinho eager to return. Then again, it may just be typical Real Madrid noise as they head into the weekend top of the table despite all of the controversy. 
  3. On the field, the press labeled this a battle of the #7’s between Eden Hazard and Joao Felix. While Felix leads Atleti in goals, Hazard has been slowed by a hamstring injury to start the season.
  4. With Luka Modric also recovering from injury, Fede Valverde’s inclusion over James Rodriguez puts a large responsibility on the 21-year-old Uruguayan. Simeone goes with his usual 4-4-2, with Felix and Diego Costa leading the line.
  5. Thibaut Courtois gets jeered by the home crowd after an early touch. Atleti have possession to begin the match, showing off a supposedly, newly proactive team. With Kieran Trippier getting in an early cross, Simeone’s side are attacking heavily on the wings.
  6. Sergio Ramos gets an early foul on Felix, knocking the playmaker to the ground. Felix is officially part of the derby.
  7. The commentary notes that Rodrygo’s reward for his debut goal was getting sent back down to the reserve team.
  8. Felix gets on the end of an excellent counter attacking ball from Diego Costa, though the Portugeuse midfielder hits his shot wide. Felix and Costa’s ability to both playmake and score augment each other well.
  9. Hazard, on the other hand, is getting on the ball in bits and spurts without much penetration. 
  10. This match is going to won by an individual moment coming from the wings, whether it be one of Hazard, Gareth Bale, Renan Lodi, Vitolo, or Trippier. There’s too much at stake for either set of center midfielders to take chances.
  11. Whisper it quietly, but Atleti actually do look fluid in attack between Renan Lodi, Kieran Trippier, Koke, Thomas Partey, Vitolo. 
  12. Valverde is putting in work on the defensive end, if giving nothing in attack for Zidane.
  13. Bale gets Real Madrid’s first chance of the match 17 minutes in off a header. It seems like a simple proposition for Atleti to get points: Lodi and Trippier must win their individual battles against Bale and Hazard.
  14. Trippier baits Nacho into getting the first yellow card of the match. Again, all of the action is out wide.
  15. Hazard is seeing the ball during transitions, but none of these sequences have amounted to any real shot creation opportunities. Likewise, Real Madrid have a lot of possession without any penetrative play. Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic are controlling Atleti’s defensive space up the middle. 
  16. And Toni Kroos and Casemiro are controlling the midfield possession, as per usual.
  17. In rounding out player performances through the first half, Saul has done nothing on the right.
  18. We have a sequence of half chances: Felix gets another decent shot, giving him Atleti’s two best chances of the match. Kroos then brings out a save from Jan Oblak for Real Madrid’s best chance. Partey starts a good opportunity from Atleti by delivering an over-the-top ball to Trippier on the right, who gets his cross deflected by Courtois. Partey has been excellent all match, on and off ball.
  19. Though the first half ended 0-0, there was the requisite intensity and action one would expect from the rivals. Felix had the best chances of the match off counters, with  much of Atleti’s possession going through Trippier on the right. 
  20. For Real Madrid, Hazard has yet to influence the match.
  21. Angel Correa surprisingly comes on for Vitolo for the second half. Vitolo has rejuvenated his career this season and is the first true winger to have success - showcasing winger skills like rangy, speedy dribbling and penetration - in a long, long time under Simeone. We talk about Atleti can add different dimensions to transcend the 4-4-2, and Vitolo’s 1 v 1 dribbling ability adds something new. 
  22. Correa’s sub moves Atleti to a 4-3-3, showing how the Argentine’s close control and dribbling versus Vitolo’s winger runs bring about vastly different shapes. 
  23. Costa’s link-up play is lively to begin the second half. And Bale is getting on the ball more for Real Madrid, though not in dangerous areas. 
  24. Though this is a second half for dribblers. Nacho and Valverde are driving into Atleti’s backline, drawing challenges. On the other end, Correa is destabilizing Real Madrid’s backline with his direct attacking. 
  25. Thomas Lemar comes on for Lodi. Saul, who has done very little thus far, moves to left back. Saul, who is still just 24-years-old, seems to be in a constant state of either regression or scoring important Champions League goals. Bale immediately challenges and beats Saul one on one from the wing.
  26. Zidane finally makes his first change, throwing on Luka Modric, who returns after a prolonged injury spell.
  27. For his final act of the match, Felix draws a yellow card on Raphael Varane. He was the most likely Atleti player to score. 
  28. Benzema then gets the best chance of the match off a cross from Nacho. It was a decent cross, but Benzema created that scoring opportunity out of nothing. And while Benzema hasn’t scored, this performance showed everything else he does for an attack, from hold-up play, to dribbling, to linking, to creating chances. 
  29. With that said, that was a great save from Oblak.
  30. Zidane throws on his last grasp attackers, with James Rodriguez and Luka Jovic replacing Hazard and Benzema. 
  31. Partey appropriately gets a yellow card for a late challenge to close out the 0-0 match. He was my MOTM for Atleti. His range of passing got behind Real Madrid’s backline and put Trippier and Lodi in free positions to cross. That long-range passing quality combined with his sturdy tactical presence in the middle creates the perfect Simeone central midfielder.
  32. Speaking of Simeone, he always teases us with attacking transfers before inevitably reverting back to his 4-4-2, low-block defending. But this time around, Simeone may actually mean it in attack. His substitutions all had a positive focus, complete with a range of tactical diversity in switching from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 at halftime while losing nothing of the defensive rigidity he demands. Each of Vitolo, Costa, Felix, and Correa offer distinct qualities up front while being able to augment their teammates’ ability. 
  33. We don’t necessarily ascribe defending to Real Madrid, but it looks like Zidane went back to basics after an early season spent on the hot seat. Varane, Ramos, Nacho, Carvajal, Casemiro, and Kroos gave up just one shot on goal, keeping Atleti’s possession in front of them throughout the match. 
  34. Though getting a point away against a rival may overshadow Hazard’s ineffective performance. Especially compared to Rodrygo’s spark during the middle of the week, Hazard rarely showcased that dribbling, destructive imagination. With all that said, Real Madrid remain top of the table.