Atletico's derby specialist Alvaro Morata aims to break duck against Real Madrid

Morata has made a habit of scoring in big derbies, and against his former clubs, across his top-level career in three countries: Spain, Italy and England.

Alvaro Morata has featured for both Atletico and Real Madrid.   -  AFP

‘Derby specialist’ Alvaro Morata is out to continue a particularly impressive individual scoring record when his current team Atletico Madrid faces his former side Real Madrid in next Saturday’s La Liga clash.

Morata has made a habit of scoring in big derbies, and against his former clubs, across his top-level career in three countries: Spain, Italy and England. Hence confidence is high among Atletico fans that the 27-year-old Spain international will find the net when he visits his old Santiago Bernabeu stomping ground this weekend.

Saturday’s game will be Morata’s first La Liga game for Atleti at the Bernabeu, although he did feature for the rojiblancos last season when Real won 3-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano. He then missed this season’s first derby back in September through suspension.

More recently Morata played in January’s Spanish Super Cup ‘derby’ final. With the game scoreless late in extra-time he seemed set to give Atletico the victory when straight through on goal, only for Real Madrid midfielder Fede Valverde to bring him down at the cost of a red card. Los Blancos won the shoot-out 4-1, without Morata getting a chance to take a penalty.

Madrid derbies have for a long time brought mixed feelings for Morata, who grew up in the city as a rojiblanco fan and was an Atletico youth team player between the ages of 11 and 14. He then left, however, and continued his progression to senior level at Real Madrid, for whom he made his La Liga debut back in December 2010 against Real Zaragoza.

The imposing centre-forward hit 25 goals in 63 La Liga games as a Real Madrid player, but did not score in six meetings with Atletico across all competitions. He featured off the bench in both Real Madrid’s 2014 Champions League final win over Atletico in Lisbon, and the following season’s quarterfinals when Los Blancos also prevailed. There was also a fine hat-trick in a dramatic 4-2 Real Madrid win at neighbour Leganes in late 2016/17.

And, while at Juventus (2014-16), Morata famously scored in both legs as the Serie A side eliminated Real Madrid in the 2014/15 Champions League semifinals. A double strike in a 4-1 Serie A victory over city rival in Torino in March 2016 made him very popular with bianconeri fans, while he also scored in both Serie A clashes for Juve against Inter Milan - the Derby d'Italia - during his time in Italy.

After joining Chelsea from Real Madrid in summer 2017, Morata played in multiple London derbies, scoring against neighbours Tottenham and Arsenal. He also famously headed a late winner as Chelsea won 2-1 at Atletico early in the 2017/18 Champions League season, a goal he declined to celebrate for obvious reasons.

Since joining Atletico in January 2019, 32 La Liga games have brought 13 goals, one of which was the winner against neighbour Getafe earlier this season. But he has yet to find the net against Madrid for his new club. Next Saturday offers an ideal opportunity to break that duck and continue his enviable personal record in such high-profile occasions.