Griezmann eyes Atletico assault on Real’s title lead
Antoine Griezmann believes Atletico Madrid can inflict the worst possible start to a season defining two-weeks for Real Madrid as Atletico go for a record fourth straight La Liga win at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Griezmann scored the winner last season as Atletico became the first side to ever win away to Real in the league for three consecutive seasons.
“I see us as favourites. I believe in my teammates and the coach,” said a bullish Griezmann on Thursday.
Despite their triple assault on the Bernabeu, Atletico have still had to play second fiddle to Real after losing to their city rivals in the Champions League for each of the past three seasons – twice in the final.
Real were also the dominant force when the sides last met in November as Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick sealed a 3-0 win.
Zinedine Zidane’s men lead Barcelona at the top of the table by two points and have a game in hand on their title rivals with Atletico 10 points back in third.
“We have to win more for the fans than for the points,” added Griezmann.
“Madrid played great and caused us a lot of damage. Now it is a different story. We know it is going to be difficult, but I believe in my teammates. We are more complete now.”
Inflicting a damaging blow on Real’s bid for the first league title in five years would be some measure of sweet revenge for Atletico.
However, Real have yet to taste defeat at home in La Liga this season.
That record will be put fully to the test over the next fortnight as Barcelona visit on March 23.
In between times Madrid also face old foes Bayern Munich for a place in the Champions League semi-finals.
Real captain Sergio Ramos has been Atletico’s bete noire in recent times, scoring in both the Champions League finals between the sides.
But he has called on Real to not rest on their laurels and go for more history by becoming the first side to retain the Champions League in 27 years and end Barca’s stranglehold on La Liga.
“You can’t constantly live with what you have won in the past. You have to have ambition and belief to win titles,” he told Madrid’s website.
“As of today we can win both the Champions League and La Liga.”
Both sides are in great form having each won their last five La Liga outings.
However, Zidane and Atletico boss Diego Simeone’s plans could be affected by their upcoming Champions League ties with Bayern and Leicester City respectively.
Zidane is expected to welcome back a host of first team regulars rested for Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Leganes, including Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
By contrast, Simeone is expected to name an unchanged side from the one that beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Tuesday with Fernando Torres partnering Griezmann up front due to Kevin Gameiro’s continued absence through injury.
Any slip up from Real would allow Barcelona to move top when they travel to Malaga later on Saturday.
Barca boss Luis Enrique is expected to rest some of his star names ahead of their Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Juventus on Tuesday, whilst Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic are suspended.
Villarreal v Athletic Bilbao (195)
Espanyol v Alaves (1200), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (1515), Sevilla v Deportivo la Coruna (1730), Malaga v Barcelona (1945)
Granada v Valencia (1100), Celta Vigo v Eibar (1515), Osasuna v Leganes (1730), Las Palmas v Real Betis (1945)
Real Sociedad v Sporting Gijon (1945)