After winning the title in 2014, Atletico Madrid had to settle for third place last season behind the financial powerhouses of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
However, Diego Simeone isn’t the ponderous type. As soon as La Liga had concluded for another year, the Argentine set about rejigging his squad in preparation for another title tilt. And hasn’t he bought well. The attacking options now at his disposal make Atletico not just serious domestic challengers, but dare we say strong contenders for the Champions League?
The attacking, excitable talents of Colombian Jackson Martinez are sure to bring a different dynamic to the Spanish top division. 28 goals in 41 appearances for Porto last season demonstrate his eye for goal, not least his attacking prowess. 21-year-old Luciano Vietto, a summer recruit from La Liga rivals Villarreal, will bring youthful exuberance and will only add to the attacking options already at Simeone’s disposal.
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One of the Atletico boss’ biggest challenges will be to get the best out of each individual player and use them accordingly when approaching a variety of different opponents. Vietto’s pace and ability to stretch defences will be a notable asset, but the strength and creativity of Fernando Torres, who looks settled and somewhat back near his best, is something the Simeone will want to exploit.
However, Antoine Griezmann remains Atletico’s most prized asset. The 24-year-old netted 25 times in 54 appearances last season and, single-handedly, kept Rojiblancos in the title race. With the attacking support around him, Griezmann will once again lead from the front giving Atletico every chance of repeating their La Liga triumph of 2014.
Despite Simeone’s notable acquisitions in the summer window, perhaps his biggest compliment is managing to keep hold of commanding central defender Diego Godin. The Uruguayan was instrumental as Atletico kept 18 cleans sheets, conceding just three goals in their last 10 games of last season.
Manchester City, among others, have shown interest in signing Godin, who reportedly rejected a move to the Etihad - stating his intentions of staying at the Vicente Calderon under Simeone.
With Sevilla away and Barcelona at home in two of Atletico’s first three league fixtures, Godin and Co. will be under no illusions of just how difficult it will be to re-capture the La Liga crown. Simeone must galvanise and invigorate a squad of quality players boosted by the summer acquisitions and get the best out of each individual, if Atletico are to mount a serious title challenge.
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