Despite his side boasting a formidable recent record against capital rivals Club Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid CF goalkeeper Iker Casillas says it is the Liga champions who must prove themselves in 'El Derbi Madrileño' on Saturday.
With 11 wins in 13 top-flight matches this term, the second-placed Rojiblancos enjoy an eight-point lead over Madrid in third, who trail Atlético in the standings going into a derby game for the first time since 17 January 1999. On that occasion, Guus Hiddink's Merengues turned the tables on Arrigo Sacchi's Atlético with a 4-2 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, a result Casillas is hoping his team can repeat this weekend.
"This is a vital match for us and one which we hope will prove a turning point [in our season]," the Madrid captain explained. "In order to make up for our loss at Real Betis [Balompié] last week we want to take three points in what will be a game full of emotion."
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's double and a José Mari goal earned Atlético the derby spoils in a 3-1 triumph at the home of their neighbours in October 1999 – yet few would have predicted back then that the club from the banks of the river Manzanares would go on to endure 23 winless matches against Madrid.
"This derby will be different from the ones in recent seasons," Casillas went on. "Atlético are very strong. They come here having beaten a team like Sevilla [FC 4-0 last Sunday], a side who beat us this term. They are playing really good football under coach Diego Simeone, whose appointment was a wise move by Atlético. He has given them a new feel and they are [second in the Liga behind FC Barcelona] on merit. Even so, our mission has to be to win."
Having scored 11 goals in 12 Liga games for Atlético this campaign – and 50 for the club since signing from FC Porto at the start of last season – striker Falcao says that playing at the Bernabéu represents a huge challenge for the UEFA Europa League holders. "Rather than feeling pressure, we see this game a big motivation for us," the Colombian international said. "It is going to be an intense occasion, with both sides looking to win."
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