After Borussia Dortmund surprised many to make last season's Champions League final, fans want to know who could be this season's surprise package in Europe's top competition.

Well, here are five reasons why Atlético Madrid can be that dark horse and why they could even go one step further than Dortmund and win the whole thing.

1. Their Europa League experience

Having won the Europa League in 2009/10 and 2011/12, Atlético certainly know what it's like to go to the very last stages of European competition.

Yes, of course the Europa League is nowhere near as difficult to win as the Champions League, but there is still a lot of quality there, particularly in the latter stages. The final just last year, for example, was between Chelsea and Benfica, two teams that met in the quarter-finals of the top competition just a year before.

The Rojiblancos also won the UEFA Super Cup following both of their Europa League wins, proving that they can definitely play against the biggest teams.

Atlético thrive in cup competitions like the Europa League. The biggest criticism of recent Atlético sides has been their inconsistency, which is partly why they have not been able to break the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid over a whole league season.

Cup competitions are where talented but inconsistent teams can thrive, however, and Atlético have done just that over recent campaigns with their Europa League successes and the Copa del Rey triumph last season.

That Copa del Rey win was no stroll in the park either. They defeated Real Madrid in a final at the Bernabéu - just about the hardest cup final you can imagine.

2. Keeping Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone has stayed with the Madrid side and that could be one of the most important aspects of a successful run in the 2013/14 Champions League.

Since arriving in December of 2011, Simeone boasts an impressive 62% win percentage - a much better going than the 41% and 48% of his predecessors Quique Flores and Gregorio Manzano.

With the Champions League favourites of holders Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all starting the season with new managers, Atlético already have a key advantage.

Simeone already knows this team inside out, unlike his main rivals for the most sought-after trophy on the continent. That could be a bigger advantage than many might think.

3. A productive transfer window

Atlético lost their star player and one of the best strikers in the world very early on in this transfer window so you may wonder how their summer could possibly be considered a success.

Having only received a fraction of Falcao's €60 million fee, the Madrid side could not simply go out and spend big on several names. Instead they bought wisely, bringing in David Villa in a deal that will cost no more than €5 million as well as 20-year-old Brazilian striker Léo Baptistão, signed from Rayo Vallecano across the city.

The club has also kept a hold of Diego Costa despite interest from Liverpool and Costa is just another talented attacking option on offer to Simeone. The Brazilian scored eight times in his matches of Atlético's Copa del Rey campaign last season and saves his best for the big nights.

4. Their position in La Liga's no man's land

Atlético finished last season's La Liga in third place, nine points behind rivals Real and ten ahead of Real Sociedad. They were comfortably third and knew they would be for several weeks before the last weekend of action.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid both strengthening their squads this summer by signing the likes of Neymar, Isco and possibly Gareth Bale, Atlético could well find themselves even further behind the top two this season. 

Meanwhile, seven of the nine sides that finished behind Atlético in the league last season have had to sell their best player. Those sides haven't replaced their departing stars with the same quality of David Villa, however, meaning El Atléti could end up in a kind of La Liga no man's land where they are so far behind the top two, but so far ahead of the chasing pack that they canter towards a destined third place finish.

When the Champions League steps up a gear around March next year, that could be a massive advantage. The opportunity to rest key players before European nights could see them knock out the likes of their La Liga rivals, the English sides, Dortmund and Munich and even PSG who all seem set to have domestic battles as tough and as important as their European ones.

5. Avoiding Barcelona and Real Madrid

Although Barça and Real are not the outright favourites that they once were, they are still, of course, two giants of the European game and the fact that Atlético will avoid them in the Group Stages and the Last 16 round is an understated bonus. 

To win the trophy you obviously have to beat the best at some point, but putting off the chance of a European night at the Camp Nou or Bernabéu for as long as possible is good thing for Diego Simeone. 

Barcelona and Madrid might even be knocked out by the time Atlético could potentially draw them at the quarter-final stage or they should at least have knocked out some of the tournaments other favourites. 

Nevertheless, knowing that your odds of good draws before the quarter-finals are improved is a nice thought to have. And from the quarter-finals stage onwards, anything can happen...

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#UEFA Champions League
#Football