Simeone could leave Atletico Madrid if they fail to reach top four

PETE JENSON: Tonight’s Madrid derby is HUGE for Atletico. Missing out on Champions League could see Diego Simeone leave if he has to give up his £34m-a-year salary, and tempers will flare with dethroned champions refusing to give Real a guard of honour

  • Diego Simeone’s side are seeking their first win over Real in their new stadium
  • Atletico Madrid are battling to secure their place in the Champions League
  • Simeone could have to renegotiate his contract if they fail to qualify
  • Real arrive at the home of their rivals having already been crowned champions
  • Atletico will not be giving Real the traditional guard of honour before the game 

Atletico Madrid have never beaten Real Madrid in the league in their new stadium – they need that first win to come more than ever on Sunday, to help them avoid the meltdown that would following if they miss out on Champions League qualification for next season.

Real Madrid have spent the last week celebrating the league and reaching the Champions League final, Atletico have spent it thinking only about one thing – getting the better of Carlo Ancelotti’s side on Sunday to shore up fourth place in the table.

This will be the fifth derby in the Wanda with Atletico having lost one and drawn three of the previous four. Madrid are the only team yet to lose against Atletico in the new arena.

Diego Simeone will be doing his best to orchestrate the supporters on Sunday. Spanish radio Cope broke the story this week that he will have to renegotiate his £34milion-a-year contract with the club if they fail to finish in the top four.

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is desperate for his side to finish in the top four in La Liga

Champions League qualification is in Atletico’s hands with four games of the season to go

It’s unworkable that he remains football’s best-paid coach if they slip into the Europa League and the need for a sit-down even opens the door to a parting of the ways with neither side paying compensation if no new agreement is reached.

It should be said Atletico remain favourites to make the cut.

With four games left it’s in their own hands. They are three points clear of fifth-placed Betis and have a better head-to-head goal-difference than Manuel Pellegrini’s team. But their run-in is far from straightforward. After visiting Elche in midweek they are home to Sevilla and away to Real Sociedad in their last two matches. They do not want to go into those games still in desperate need of points so winning the derby on Sunday feels even more of a must.

Ending a goalscoring crisis will be key.

Atletico have failed to score in five of their last six games. Two of those matches were the tense quarter-final legs with Manchester City but it’s a concern all the same.

One man who has an excellent record against Real Madrid is Luis Suarez with 12 goals in 19 starts against them. He would almost certainly be going into his last Madrid derby with his contract up at Atletico at the end of the season.

Atletico fans are so grateful for him for scoring 21 league goals last season to help them win La Liga that they want him honoured with a plaque on the Legends Passage that runs around the Metropolitano Stadium. The Uruguayan is only on 80 appearances for the club and the honour is usually bestowed on those who have clocked up a century but supporters have began an online campaign to make an exception.

French star Antoine Griezmann is expected to start for Atleti in Sunday’s crunch derby

If he can find a little of the old scoring magic that he showed last campaign – and that has deserted the entire team of late – then it will be hard to turn the request down.

But it looks as if he might have to do it from the bench, with Simeone looking most likely to start with Antoine Griezmann and Angel Correa. Thomas Lemar and Joao Felix are both out but the club have been boosted by Renildo’s suspension being overturned.

It’s even harder to second guess what team Ancelotti will line up against them.

Diario AS was speculating on Friday that pretty much all big names would be rested. They had Lucas Vazquez, Jesus Vallejo, Nacho and Marcelo at the back, with Eduardo Camavinga, Dani Ceballos and Fede Valverde behind Rodrygo, Mariano Diaz and Marco Asensio.

Spanish media have reported the likes of Karim Benzema may be rested for the encounter

Eduardo Camavinga is reportedly in line to start the match after impressing in midweek

This doesn’t feel like a game that superb competitors such as Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Vinicius, Dani Carvajal and Karim Benzema will really want to miss. There will be pleny of time for them to rest ahead of the European Cup final on May 28.

They play Levante at home next midweek and then they go to Cadiz before finishing up at home to Betis. It will be interesting to see how Ancelotti balances rest, with respecting the desire to play every minute that his senior players have. As always dialogue will be the key.

It will also be fascinating to see if Madrid’s success in league and Europe cranks up the animosity levels more than usual.

Atletico Madrid players have declined the opportunity to give their opposite numbers a guard of honour on to the pitch ahead of Sunday’s game because they feel it would humiliate them in some way.

Atletico are not the first to cock a snook at the tradition of honouring the Champions. In 2017 Barcelona didn’t do it for Madrid when Madrid had won the World Club Cup. In 2018 Real Madrid did not do it for Barcelona. Barca coach at the time Ernesto Valverde said the tradition had become more about humiliation than homage. Everyone wanting to duck out of it has used that to justify themselves ever since.

Real will not be receiving a guard of honour from Atletico prior to the crunch clash

Atletico will know though that the real humbling this season would be to fail to qualify for the Champions League having started the season as favourites for LaLiga.

It would also leave them unsure of the future of some of their best players and their coach. Barcelona would feel more emboldened to go for Joao Felix if they were in the Champions League and Atletico were not. And Simeone would need to accept a pay cut to stay.

He has been a source of massive income since he took over a decade ago.

With two Champions League final appearances, two more semi-finals, two Europa League finals and two European Super Cups he has brought in well in excess of €300m in prize money.

Just for qualifying for the Champions League clubs earn around €15m and getting out of the group brings in a further €9.6m.

Atletico need fourth place and a first ever win at the Wanda over the new champions would be a huge step in the right direction to making it theirs.

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