Can Los Rojiblancos retain their title this season after a summer of change?
Despite losing the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis, David Villa and Diego Costa this summer, reigning Spanish champions Atletico Madrid are arguably stronger and have more quality in depth than they did last season.
After breaking the domestic dominance enjoyed by Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent years by lifting the La Liga trophy last season, Atleti are now under an entirely new pressure which is an expectation for them to repeat their success.
Inevitably, when a team enjoys such success and isn’t in a position to compete financially with their rivals from around Europe, they are at risk of losing their star players. However, perhaps the most impressive element of their work this summer is their ability to identify ready-made replacements to fit into Diego Simeone’s system and culture.
The Argentinian is undeniably a significant factor behind their recent achievements, and his demands for organisation, effort and commitment to the cause have transformed the club into one of the leading contenders in Europe, as shown in their run to the Champions League final last year.
While the loss of Diego Costa’s goals may well prove to be the difference, the acquisition of Mario Mandzukic promises to cover his absence to an extent. However, it will be up to the team in general to contribute in that respect, starting with another new signing in Antoine Griezmann.
Having impressed with Real Sociedad, Griezmann makes the step up to a new level this season and along with Arda Turan, the pair will be expected to have an influence on the team’s general play on the flanks. Coupled with the continued development of Koke, Atleti will have a creative and hard-working trio of midfielders that look dangerous on paper.
Combine that with a steady defence that still has Diego Godin and Miranda at the heart of it as well as Gabi and Raul Garcia providing protection further ahead, the club appear to have protected the core of the squad that was so integral to their rise last season.
Admittedly, the loss of Courtois’ presence and calmness will also be missed, but Jan Oblak is capable of becoming a reliable replacement while Guilherme Siqueira will be tasked with filling Luis’ boots at left-back.
With the Supercopa de Espana second leg on Friday, Atleti will be determined to strike an early blow to their city rivals after securing a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu. Lifting another trophy before the season begins will be a huge boost for morale, but more importantly, it will give the team conviction and belief that they are still at a top level and are capable of challenging for more trophies moving forward.
Atletico Madrid’s Best XI:
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