The Portuguese and the Frenchman will be in the spotlight once again in the derby on Saturday. Here’s a look at their record so far this season
Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann meet again. The two forwards came face to face in the final of the Champions League in Milan last May, then in the Euro 2016 showpiece in Paris and once more as the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best awards were handed out.
The Portuguese came out on top each time and in an interview with France Football, the Frenchman joked: “I hate him!” And even though the Madeira-born forward has been below his best in the current campaign, he produced probably his finest game of the season against Atletico in November, hitting a hat-trick at the Vicente Calderon as Real ran out 3-0 winners.
Overall, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner has netted 26 times in 2016-17 – including 19 in La Liga. Since the injury he suffered in the final of Euro 2016 against France, he has struggled to get back to his best this term, but Atletico is always a special game for Cristiano.
No player has scored more goals against Atleti under Diego Simeone than the Portuguese and he comes into this fixture fresh after he was rested in midweek for the game against Leganes, when a yellow card would have meant suspension for the derby.
Despite his goal return against Atletico since Simeone’s arrival (14 in all competitions), Ronaldo has had more trouble finding the net in recent meetings between the two teams and complained after last February’s derby loss that Madrid cannot compete when key players are out injured.
That was a reference to Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, both struggling with injury back then. However, he will be reunited with the French forward and the Welsh winger in Saturday’s match after all three sat out on Wednesday. And Madrid also boast much more strength in depth this term – as Marco Asensio, Alvaro Morata and Lucas Vazquez showed against Leganes.
By comparison, Griezmann has 22 goals in 2016-17 in all competitions and 14 in La Liga. The 26-year-old is constantly being linked with a summer exit with Manchester United – among others – interested in his signing. However, he appears happy at Atletico right now and likely to stay while Simeone is in charge.
It was a Griezmann goal that decided the derby at the Santiago Bernabeu last season and saw Atletico win the famous fixture for a third season in a row at the home of their fierce rivals. And the French forward also scored there for Real Sociedad, so he has three in total at Saturday’s venue.
Another match-winning performance on Saturday would throw Madrid’s title hopes into chaos and perhaps even get Atleti back into the race, although Ronaldo and Real will have something to say about that too. The stage is set for another brutal battle between two of the game’s finest forwards.