Falcao-Ronaldo duel subplot to derby
Saturday's Madrid derby represents an opportunity for Atletico to upstage their city rivals and defending champions, Real, but the showdown also provides a chance for Radamel Falcao to outshine Cristiano Ronaldo.
The record goalscoring feats of Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi have largely overshadowed Falcao's prolific 15 months at the Vicente Calderon, but the Colombian will take centre stage alongside Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.
Despite Barcelona's remarkable start to the season, Atletico are just three points adrift of the Catalan giants after 13 matches, thanks in no small part to Falcao.
Not short on confidence, he admitted only victory would suffice on Saturday.
"We're not thinking about whether a draw would be a good result. We always want to win and deal with the challenges we encounter. It's a certain desire to win and beat your rivals," he said.
Falcao's irresistible form has drawn strong interest from Premier League giants Manchester City and Chelsea, with the latter discovering first-hand how lethal he can be following his treble against the European champions in August's Uefa Super Cup.
While Falcao's return of 24 league goals a year ago – his first season in La Liga since leaving Porto – paled in comparison to Ronaldo's haul of 46, the Colombian talisman has closed the gap considerably this season.
His 11 goals are just one goal shy of Ronaldo's tally, and Falcao further underlined his credentials by scoring in 11 straight matches between August and October.
Falcao has also transferred his remarkable form onto the international stage, netting five times in six World Cup qualifying matches for Colombia to put his country in a strong position to qualify for their first finals since 1998.
Akin to Ronaldo, "El Tigre" (The Tiger) is equally adept with either foot and a considerable presence in the air, despite his relative lack of size.
Similarly to the Portuguese star, who won the Champions League with Manchester United in 2008, Falcao is also no stranger to European success, having helped Porto lift the Europa League in 2011 – two years after his move from River Plate – scoring a record 17 goals in the competition.
Falcao ultimately appears destined for a big-money transfer in the not-so-distant future, much like Ronaldo, who swapped Manchester for Madrid three years ago in a world record 80 million pound move.