I do hope Gothenburg legend Neil Simpson had a happy, noisy, raucous birthday on Wednesday – he’s one of our club’s all-time greats not only for his feats on the pitch but for how he’s training youngsters in the Pittodrie Academy to be part of our future.
It’s partly relevant to mention his anniversary because it coincides with the last fixture we both attended in Spain – the Madrid derby.
For all Simmie’s ferocity of play and his competitive instincts, he came away from the 2-2 draw between Atleti and Madrid at the Calderon a couple of seasons ago absolutely fizzing with inspiration and enthusiasm about the intensity of the game when we had a couple of beers in the Spanish capital.
Worldwide it’s given much less attention than the Clásico – that all-devouring beast of a fixture between Barça and Madrid which has taken on a life of its own. It’s a brand.
However, when Madrid splits into red-and-white, working class, versus all-white, ancien-regime, the collision and impact can be utterly spectacular, engrossing.
And it usually yields elite-quality football.
Tomorrow night sees what the big-selling football daily Marca calls The Desperation Derby.
I’m not going to sell you the “crisis” word about Madrid’s status. They are reigning champions of the World, Europe and Spain given that since appointing Zinedine Zidane they’ve won seven trophies.
That averages out at a trophy every three months.
However, Madrid are badly adrift of Barcelona in the league and should they lose this derby (and if Messi and co hypothetically win elsewhere in Madrid against Leganés) the 11-point gap would be insurmountable.
In November. Nae great, min.
Atleti? Winning the title has been beyond them from the start but their form, their ability to press and harass like they once did, their scoring – and the likelihood of them still being in the Champions League once the group stages finish – are all in a critical state.
Defeat for Simeone’s team, in what is the first Madrid derby at their new stadium, would signal the start of just as powerful and unforgiving an inquest.
Don’t miss the Desperation Derby. It’ll be dynamite.