The last time rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid met, Atletico rode an early Luis Suarez goal to a 1-1 draw. Real Madrid generated more scoring chances overall -- 19 shots to 11, 1.9 expected goals to lớn 1.3 -- và pulled even with an 88th-minute goal from Karim Benzema. But late saves from keeper Jan Oblak assured Atleti of a point, and that result ended up rather significant: Atleti ended up winning LaLiga by two points over their derby rivals.

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The Madrid Derby resumes on Sunday -- stream LIVE, 3 p.m. ET, -- & the tables have turned significantly. Los Blancos have lost only once in their first 16 league matches và have opened up a commanding lead atop LaLiga, ahead of Sevilla by eight points, nine over Real Betis & 10 over Atleti & Real Sociedad.

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We"re not yet lớn the season"s midway point, but FiveThirtyEight is giving Real Madrid a 75% chance of winning the league, & no one else is above 10%. Atletico have the best odds of finishing second, but have quite a bit of work to bởi vì just to secure a top-four finish. & while Real Madrid quickly rebounded from a slow start in Champions League play this fall, Atleti couldn"t secure a spot in the knockout rounds until Tuesday"s win at Porto.

Here are some of the points of interest heading into Sunday"s game, the biggest of the weekend across Europe.

How Carlo Ancelotti built the best attack in Spain

This summer, new (and old) Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti inherited a roster in transition. They were still getting plenty from a veteran core of forward Karim Benzema, midfielders Luka Modric, Toni Kroos và Casemiro, etc., but stalwart defenders Sergio Ramos (PSG) and Raphael Varane (Manchester United) had both left. The club brought in former Bayern defender David Alaba, 23-year-old Eder Militao took on a much larger role, and the early transition was tricky: they drew 3-3 with Levante in August, allowed two goals to lớn Celta Vigo in September và lost, rather famously, to Sheriff Tiraspol by a 2-1 margin in the Champions League. A week later they fell to lớn Espanyol by the same 2-1 score.

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Since October"s international break, however, the team has ignited. In their last 12 LaLiga and Champions League matches, they"ve dropped just two points và outscored opponents by a 27-6 margin. Regression from rivals has certainly helped them to build their lead -- Atletico have gone from averaging 2.3 points per game to 1.9, Barcelona from 2.1 khổng lồ 1.5, & Sevilla have suffered some bad close-game breaks while improving only from 2.0 to lớn 2.1 -- but none of that should detract from what has been a spectacular run of form.

The defense has solidified, & the attack is outstanding. They have improved from 1.8 goals per league match last season to 2.3, maintaining the same strong shot unique (fifth in LaLiga in xG per shot), but significantly increasing their shot quantity. They average 0.20 shots per possession, more than even the prolific Bayern Munich and fourth-most overall among Europe"s Big 5 leagues.

Benzema has maintained last season"s outstanding numbers up front, but winger Vinicius Junior has found a new gear, giving Benzema a dance partner opponents simply cannot account for.

Karim Benzema"s progression


Vinicius Jr"s Progression


It"s possible both players are finishing at too high a màn chơi to maintain -- they"ve got 22 goals from 16.2 xG in LaLiga, plus seven from 5.6 in the Champions League -- but it"s not a given, in particular because of the interplay they"ve developed. Of Benzema"s 30 chances created, seven have gone khổng lồ Vini Jr. Và among Vini"s 26, nine have gone to Benzema. Throw in bouts of awesomeness from Marco Asensio on the right wing (five goals, 13 chances created in 715 combined LaLiga và Champions League minutes), and you"ve got by far the best attack in Spain. (It might be tempered a little if Benzema misses out, with his fitness unclear for Sunday.)

Granted, this is still a pretty old roster overall, even with the presence of Vinicius (21), Militao, midfielder Federico Valverde (23) and the most recent high-upside addition, midfielder Eduardo Camavinga (19). Of their 13 players with at least 800 minutes in all competitions this season, nine are aged 29 or older. Perhaps injuries or fatigue will dampen the team"s form at some point in the future, but at the moment, said khung is as strong as anyone"s in Europe.


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WEDNESDAY, FEB. 2• Vallecano v Mallorca (1.55 p.m. ET)• Genk v Club Brugge (2.40 p.m. ET)• Valencia v Cadiz (2.55 p.m. ET)

THURSDAY, FEB. 3• Real Sociedad v Real Betis (1.55 p.m. ET)• Eupen v Anderlecht (2.40 p.m. ET)• Athletic Club v Real Madrid (3.25 p.m. ET)

Combined with injury issues và shuffling at center-back, Atletico have also suffered in transition. They"ve gone from allowing 0.7 goals per match in league play lớn 1.1, và opponents have found themselves under far less pressure near the goal. Last season, 88.6% of opponent shots came with at least two defenders between shot và goal, the most in LaLiga; this season that number has fallen lớn 83.2% (12th-best). Opponents are placing strong, accurate shots at keeper Jan Oblak, and he isn"t saving hardly any of them. Oblak has been one of the best keepers in the world in recent years -- if not the best -- but at the moment, Atleti"s save percentage is drastically lower than everyone else"s.

LaLiga save percentage, 2021-22:

17. Barcelona (63.2%)18. Levante (63.2%)19. Cadiz (60.9%)20. Atletico (51.4%)

The good news, so lớn speak, is that 51% is unsustainably bad even if you are indeed giving your opponents pretty good looks at the goal. Last season no one in Europe"s Big 5 had a full-season save percentage lower than 57%, và Atletico"s was 79%, best in the Big 5. Oblak and these percentages will almost certainly progress toward the mean.

The bad news is, Atletico are already 10 points back of the league lead. The damage has already been done. They saved their Champions League run with Tuesday"s win over Porto, but LaLiga is just about lost.

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Strangely, Atletico have suffered the most mishaps while ahead.

Goal differential when tied (per 90 possessions): Real Madrid +0.87, Atletico +0.86Goal differential when ahead (per 90 possessions): Real Madrid +1.63, Atletico -0.21