Vinicius to face Atletico again after effigy hate attack

AP , Thursday 23 Feb 2023

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior has endured some of the vilest racist attacks in recent memory this season.



That has not stopped him from emerging as one of the top players both in Spain and in the Champions League, where this week he scored twice to spark Madrid’s 5-2 comeback win at Liverpool.

On Saturday, the 22-year-old Brazil winger will again be expected to play a leading role in the league match against crosstown rival Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The derby comes one month after Vinicius, who is Black, was targeted by a hate attack hours before he scored to help Madrid fight back to eliminate Atletico 3-1 in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Before that game, an effigy of Vinícius was hung from a highway bridge in Spain’s capital along with a banner with the words “Madrid hates Real.”

The incident drew condemnation by both clubs and soccer officials across the nation but authorities have yet to find out who was responsible.

This weekend’s game will again be played in Madrid’s stadium, possibly shielding Vinicius from chants he has heard at recent away games. The Spanish league has filed eight complaints with authorities for racist insults or chants against Vinícius, with three of them being shelved by prosecutors and another three being accepted for processing before courts.

Last week, he had to endure shouts of “Die, Vinícius” during a 2-0 victory at Osasuna in Pamplona.

“The insults continue, but so does the dancing,” Vinícius wrote on Twitter after the victory in reference to his goal celebrations that some opposing fans and even players have said are disrespectful.

Vinicius has responded by noting that some white players also dance after scoring without receiving the same reaction.

Vinicius has only continued to improve this season, evolving from Karim Benzema’s sidekick to a budding superstar in his own right. The pair of scorers have each netted 18 goals overall this season. Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti called Vinícius “the most decisive player in world football” after his team's big win at Anfield on Tuesday.

Madrid has dominated the rivalry with Atletico in recent years, losing only once in their last 11 meetings. Atletico’s sole win in that stretch came at home in the league last season. Atletico hasn’t won at Madrid since 2016.

Madrid has beaten Atletico twice already this season, but anything other than another victory would put in jeopardy Madrid's title defense.

Barcelona is already eight points clear and visits Almeria on Sunday in what should be a relatively easy outing even without the injured Pedri González and Ousmane Dembélé.

Atletico is in fourth place, 18 points out of the title race and already eliminated from European competition and the Copa del Rey. Diego Simeone’s sole objective is holding onto a Champions League spot.

Real Sociedad is in third place, only two points ahead of Atletico. Real Betis is four points behind in fifth.

Atletico will likely be without Argentina midfielder Rodrigo de Paul, who has injured his left thigh.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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