Whilst the Atletico Madrid fans are still smiling from their impressive run and victory in the Europa League last season, Coach Diego Simeone knows that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Last season saw Atletico fail to make the Champions League spots, something that has cost them dearly. The club have had to sell players to balance the books and whereas last term they were signing players for €40m, this season they have spent just €1m.
Simeone appears happy with his squad though and it also looks like Raul Garcia, a player that many tipped to leave, may play an important part in his plans. Simeone may also use young Oliver Torres who at 17 has all the Atleti faithful dreaming. It is expected that the more players from the Colchoneros Cantera will be called upon as last season Atletico suffered due to a thin squad and injuries.
The defence at Atletico has long been the Achilles heel for Coaches and in pre-season Simeone has been working with his defenders to prevent a repeat of the many late goals conceded last term – late goals that proved costly. El Cholo has also been working on fitness levels and movement on the ball, whilst it is expected that Los Rojiblancos will play a very defensive style away, but at home they will open play up a little.
A major concern for Atletico will be Simeone’s habit of leaving his sides before his second season is over. The Argentine’s appointment has created a fantastic atmosphere at the club’s ground, Vicente Calderon, and he has the full support of the fans, board and the players. The ‘Cholo Effect’ was in full view last season. Fans hope it will continue this season too.
The difference maker – Radamel Falcao
Managing to keep Radamel Falcao may be Atletico’s greatest achievement this summer. El Tigre set La Liga ablaze last season. At the start he lacked consistency but wrapped the season up with a brace in the Europa League final. With no Diego Ribas, a lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders.
Best signing – Cata Diaz
Compared to last season, Atletico have been very quiet on the transfer front. This season they have only paid for one player, Cata Diaz. The Argentine defender may finally bring some leadership and direction on to the field – something that Atletico have lacked since Maniche.
His time? Koke
Koke burst on to the scene under Quique Sanchez Flores two seasons ago but found himself filling in wherever Simeone asked last season. The young midfielder may try taking his chance now that Diego Ribas has gone and many fans would be happy to see him shine.
Coach – Diego Simeone
‘El Cholo’ famously said at one of his first Press conferences that he prefers to attack once and score than attack 15 and not. Logical? Yes, but at the Vicente Calderon he knows he needs to entertain. Away from home expect a very defensive set up with maybe five midfielders and just one up front.
The big question…
Champions League football is a must but what every fan wants is to win ‘El Derbi’. Will this be the year that Atletico win their first derby since 1999?
Probable line-up: Courtois; Silvio, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis; Juanfran, Mario Suarez, Gabi, Arda Turan; Adrian, Falcao
IN: Diaz (d, Getafe), Emre (m, Fenerbahce), Cebolla Rodríguez (m, FC Porto)
OUT: Perea (d, Cruz Azul), Dominguez (d, Borussia Monchengladbach), Antonio Lopez (d,Mallorca), Ruben