Real Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa says that Saturday's derby clash with Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is a meeting of two of Europe's top teams.
This weekend's derby is unusual in that Atletico arrive at the Bernabeu eight points ahead of their city rivals in the Primera Division standings, and the Spanish international defender told Bwin's website that Colchoneros coach Diego Simeone has brought a huge change to his club.
"You only have to look at the table and especially see how they are playing to realise this," Arbeloa said. "Since Simeone arrived I think that they have changed completely. They are now one of the best teams in Europe."
Arbeloa, 29, who scored a rare goal in a 3-2 home derby win in March 2010, said he will likely be concentrating on his primary defensive duties in Saturday's game.
"Hopefully we will manage to not concede any goals and our forwards can do the scoring," he said. "They are the experts in that regard."
Even with Barcelona currently topping the table 11 points ahead of defending champions Madrid, Arbeloa said that the La Liga race was far from over, especially given Madrid's history of stirring comebacks.
"I think that if anyone is capable of turning a situation like this around, if anyone is capable of pulling together and fighting on, it is Real Madrid," he said. "It is something that is in our DNA, in the DNA of this shirt, of this club, fighting to the end and achieving the impossible."