Atletico Madrid star Koke on facing Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo and Zizou in the derby


At 26, Koke is already one of the stalwarts of Diego Simeone's side with the versatile midfielder already racking up 382 appearances within the club's first team since graduating from the academy in 2009.

A tireless and selfless leader within Atleti, but with 91 assists and 36 goals to show over the past nine years, the Spain international has proven to be an indispensable part of the LaLiga outfit.

And ahead of the upcoming 'El Derbi Madrileño', participated in a conference call with several journalists as the Los Rojiblancos star shared his views on what's expected to be a thrilling affair at the Santiago Bernabéu.

"This is a historical derby and it's a rivalry between two teams in Madrid – Real Madrid and Atletico," he said. "There are two teams here and they are very big here in Madrid, and for us, it's a very special match.

"We always with the same desire to go and win. We are a very strong team; a very good team and we've worked a lot. All the players are going to go out there to win."

Third-placed Atleti trail their fierce rivals and FC Barcelona by just two points after six fixtures in the Spanish top-flight and Koke admits their recent Super Cup victory means nothing ahead of the LaLiga showdown.

"At the end of the day it's a match against a rival team. The last match [the UEFA Super Cup] was important because it was a cup final and there's rivalry and it's always going to be there.

"Is it going to change? Will it be different? Well, it's the beginning of the season and it is important but there is a difference between a league match and a cup match. We really want to win and our desire is to win."

In what will be the first derby in nine years without the derby all-time top scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo within Los Blancos ranks and with a new manager at the helm in Julen Lopetegui - Koke is under no illusions that the intensity of the fixture would be diluted.

"Obviously Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world but he's not going to be there. Real Madrid is still a great team and I am sure they will stay play well. I think it will be a very good match," he enthused.

"I think Real Madrid still have the same players. The only person who has left really is Ronaldo, but then they have signed Courtois, but it is still a great team.

"Regarding the change of coach, I think each coach has his own style. In general, I think things will be the same," Koke added.

"Ronaldo scored a lot of goals, but Real Madrid plays as a team. They are a very strong team. I think now they will do more teamwork rather than have the individuality of Ronaldo scoring the goals."

While Atleti may have strengthened their squad significantly during the off-season with Rodri, Thomas Lemar, Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic and Santiago Arias - to name but a few, the 26-year-old emphasised the philosophy instilled by manager Diego Simeone remains ingrained within the new core of the side.

"Our main weapon for the Madrid match is that we have to go play together. It's very difficult playing against one of the best teams in the world.

"On the bench, they also have a lot of extra good players that they can add at any moment. That is what we are going to do, that was our strategy behind the Super Cup.

"We have to be very careful - they have very fast players. We have to try out best."