Football is a game of emotions. Every game is special to the fans, but there are games that transcend the definition of special. Streets turn quiet, families are gathered, cities divided. The Madrid derby is one of them.

The rivalry between the two clubs of the Spanish capital dates back to before La Liga even started. There was a time the “Real Madrid versus Atletico Madrid” lit more fire than El Clasico.

If from the mid nighties until a few years back the derby lost its appeal due to total supremacy of Los Blancos. Diego Simeone took over the Colchoneros and managed to restore the parity. Needless to remind that two of Real Madrid Champions League titles came against a prime Atlético Madrid.

This weekend’s clash is no different. A battle that will decide the leadership of La Liga, and maybe even this campaign’s champion. This one, in particular, comes with a lot of what the Spanish press calls “morbo”. Which could be translated into “morbid fascination”. The reason behind that is that many ex-Real Madrid players are currently part of the Atleti team, and might face their former club in what would be called a major betrayal to their colors.

Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid is considered to have made the deal of the summer, buying Joao Felix, the Portuguese forward from Benfica. The youngster demonstrated significant promises. First during the preseason, when we saw him score twice in this year’s first Madrid derby. Indeed, Atletico humiliated Real Madrid winning 7-3 in the United States. A friendly sure, but the echoes of this defeat still hover above Real Madrid fans. Derbies know no friendlies.

Currently second in the table alongside Real Sociedad, Los Colchoneros had the perfect start of the season, winning their first three games. However, their performances were not as stellar as in previous years. The ‘one game at a time’, ‘one goal per game’ Cholo Simeone made so famous amongst his fans, is beginning to lose aficionados.

Atletico Madrid lost to Real Sociedad, then drew miraculously against Juventus in Champions League, before failing to win again at home against Celta Vigo.

Football is as magical as we want it to be, winning the derby this Saturday could see them take back the top of the table.

Eyes will turn to all of them Ex-Madridistas who traded their white shirts for the red and blue ones. Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata, Mario Hermoso and second goalkeeper Antonio Adan. Assets Atleti might want to capitalize on. If anything Real Madrid fears, it’s the law of the exes. Whenever an ex-player of their, plays against them, they end up scoring.  A tactical weapon hidden behind the auras of superstition in football.

Alvaro Morata is set to miss the derby after he saw a red card during this week’s game against Mallorca.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid in crisis, but Real Madrid leader. Coming off a horrendous season and with only two Liga titles to their name in the last eleven years, the Merengues are very serious contenders this year. For the last couple of seasons, we have seen them trail back in La Liga as early as October. However, this time around the dynamic is different.

Plagued with injuries, Real Madrid had to restructure its team for this start of the season. Often with only three options in midfield due to the injuries of Isco, Modric, and Valverde. Regardless of their bad luck with physical problems, they managed to remain invincible so far in La Liga.

A statistic far from making them seen as the strongest side in the league. They drew to Valladolid in the Bernabeu and beat Levante in agony. Last Wednesday they suffered a humbling defeat against PSG.

Since then and for the last two games, they managed to show a positive reaction, with the ego of a champion. They won in the Sanchez Pizjuan against Sevilla and then beat the undefeated Osasuna in the Bernabeu.

With the return of Eden Hazard, Luka Modric, Isco and the beautiful performance of Vinicius and Rodrygo; Real Madrid can aspire to get a good result at the Wanda Metropolitano.

A victory could see them four points ahead of both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid so early in the season.

Zinedine Zidane will have to play without a proper left-back though, as both Marcelo and Mendy are currently injured.

This might as well be the most balanced start of the season in years in Spain. With all three giants showing signs of weakness, more modest teams are stepping up to the plate.

So far each weekend we have had a different leader and next weekend might see either Atletico or Real Madrid take the reigns of Spanish football.