Table-topping Atleti — who are unbeaten in the league this season — go into the match six points ahead of their neighbours with a game in hand as they look to take the trophy for the first time since 2014.
“Yes, for sure,” Zidane said in a news conference on Friday, when asked if that position made them title favourites.
“That is what they’re showing. They are doing well on the pitch, they are winning. They have always been a competitive team and they are top of the table today.”
“We’ll have to deal with what they do well. Atleti are a team that always compete, they have for a long time, that’s what I expect. As for the rest, we’ll look at what we will do, that is what interests me more.”
Zidane’s job had been under threat after a disappointing start to the season, but that pressure has eased after beating Sevilla in La Liga last weekend and an impressive 2-0 Champions League win over Borussia Monchengladbach that saw them qualify for the round of 16 as group winners.
“What we want in every game, every three days, is to show the team we are, without thinking about winning the league,” Zidane added.
“Every game we want to win, like the competitors we are… We’ are league champions and we want to defend what we won last year.”
Real Madrid clinched the title last season with a 10-game post-lockdown winning streak but have struggled to maintain that consistency so far this campaign.
There has been criticism of the performance levels of veterans such as Marcelo and Isco, both unused substitutes against Sevilla and Monchengladbach, but Zidane denied that he has lost faith in the pair.
“No, not at all. I’ll always have [faith in them],” he said. “It is true they haven’t played much recently, but I’ll count on them. They have always shown the players they are, what they have done here.”