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Atlético can cement their place as La Liga's third best team

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Atlético Madrid were comfortably the third best team in La Liga last season, finishing nine points behind city rivals Real and ten ahead of fourth-placed Real Sociedad. While breaking Barcelona and Real's tight grip on the first and second spots proved a step too far, Atlético were by far the best of the rest.

The Rojiblancos also claimed their first win over Real Madrid since 1999 and with it their first domestic trophy of this millennium. 2012/13 was unquestionably an impressive season for Atlético as they pushed Real Madrid hard for second position up until March, only to falter in the final few weeks.

The challenge now is to secure another third-place finish, while keeping up the fight for that symbolic second place.

Manager Diego Simeone may have lost the side's star player, Colombian Radamel Falcao, but perhaps the best result for Atlético this summer has been holding on to the coach himself.

The Argentine tactician has been in charge at El Calderón since December 2011 and boasts an impressive 62 percent win percentage during his time - much better than the 41 per cent and 48 per cent of his predecessors Quique Flores and Gregorio Manzano. 

There was a fear that the club might lose the Argentine after such a successful season, but they have vitally managed to keep him in place.

Atletico have let several other players move on along with Falcao, but luckily no more big names.

The club has also done well to bring in some fresh faces too. Many fans would have expected huge spending after Falcao's €60 million Monaco move, but Atlético actually received only a fraction of that sum after a complicated third party agreement with the Colombian.

Simeone went out and quickly found a replacement on the cheap, however, in Barcelona's David Villa, with a deal that will cost a maximum of just €5 million to the Madrid side.

David Villa is no Radamel Falcao, of course, but is a more than decent replacement, having netted 33 times in his 77 appearances for the Catalan giants. The Spain international was badly injured during his time at the Camp Nou and struggled to regain his place after missing a whole season.

A fresh start could be just what Villa needs and he showed with Valencia that he is happy to take on the pressure of being the main striker, having scored 108 goals in his 166 matches for Valencia.

Atlético have also signed 20-year-old Brazillian striker Léo Baptistão from Rayo Vallecano after a good first season in La Liga with seven goals from his 28 appearances.

The young Brazilian prospect made his move across the Spanish capital for around €6 million and is certainly one to watch in the next couple of seasons. Don't be surprised if he eventually outshines World Cup winner Villa.

While the additions of David Villa and Baptistão will certainly not make up for the loss of Falcao, the fact that Atlético's rivals also go into the season on the back of big departures makes the arrival of the striking duo look like a good bit of business.

Seven of the nine sides that finished behind Atlético last season have also had to sell their best player, making the loss of Falcao seem less disastrous than many fear. The league has seen a net loss of 22 players this transfer window already and most other La Liga sides don't have the Champions League level resources to replace their departing star with players as good as David Villa and Baptistão.

The financial mess of La Liga should make it more difficult than ever for Atlético to catch the top two. Diego Simeone's side should, however, cement their place as the third best team in the country and, more importantly, Spain's third Champions League team.

The gap between Atlético and fourth place should be more than ten points this year. It's not a case, however, of the Madrid side having improved more than their rivals. Rather, they have simply worsened to a lesser degree.

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Topics:
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La Liga

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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