Monaco is the venue where two managers who were given similar tasks last year will meet to discuss how they fared. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo managed to steer his beloved club to a maiden Champions League victory against all odds in Munich last May whilst concurrently Diego Simeone guided Atletico Madrid to an emphatic Europa League final win in Bucharest and both will be vying to win the European Super Cup on August 24th.
Simeone had only been in charge since the winter break ended in late January but revitalised the club and leads them into another season of European football where backing them may be simpler than a bet to nfl football.
Tactics were tweaked and Madrid began to turn more defeats into draws, sometimes better. The team, languishing in mid-table obscurity, made a sharp dash for the Champions League qualification spots but were pipped by Malaga in the end. Nevertheless, another campaign in Europe, with retaining their Europa League crown a secondary goal, provides the stepping stone so to ensure that the Champions League doesn’t elude them once again.
The 3-0 success over Athletic Bilbao gives Simeone time and confidence within the boardroom and the platform to go on and battle with Malaga and Valencia for 3rd and 4th spot.
Simeone deploys stubborn tactics which aren’t always easy to watch, but are supremely effective. If Madrid can prevent the opposition from scoring then they certainly have a chance to sneak a win through Falcao and Adrian.
These two scored 55 goals between them last season and pose a real threat to any opposition. It has taken time for their partnership to blossom but next season could result in even more goals. However, an injury to either one would be damaging to Atleti’s ambitions so another striker might be necessary ahead of the season opener against Levante, despite winger Cristian Rodriguez arriving from Porto.
Financing a transfer for an able striker might be tricky however as the club are currently millions of Euros in debt and are forced to sell key players on a regular basis. Highly rated central-defender/right-back Alvaro Dominguez was vital to the club’s success last year but has since been sold to German club Borussia Monchengladbach for €8m. A young, versatile player, Dominguez’s absence will be felt significantly in the Atleti back line, especially as Cata Diaz is likely to be his replacement. The 32 year old signed for €1m from Getafe but will surely struggle to match the standards Dominguez set in his time at the Vicente Calderon.
Defensively, Atletico still appear resolute. Diego Godin and Miranda create a strong presence in the middle whilst despite the loss of Antonio Lopez to Mallorca, Filipe is more than capable at left back. In goal, Madrid once again have Thibault Courtois between the posts as he extended his loan from Chelsea for another year.
As a result, matches can be won at both ends of the pitch with supreme firepower upfront and stern defensive bodies behind them, not forgetting exciting players such as Juanfran and Koke in midfield. Simeone has a powerful squad at his disposal but is likely to continue playing a mundane style of play. If it proves effective enough then he shouldn’t hear too many complaints. Atletico haven’t been as effective as they should have in recent years and that’s one reason why they have failed to qualify for the Champions League so often. Will this season be any different?
La Liga: 5th
Europa League: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)
Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Albacete 3-1 on agg)
Thibaut Courtois loan from Chelsea
Cata Diaz €1 from Getafe
Cristian Rodriguez free from Porto
Emre free from Fenerbahce
Perea free to Cruz Azul
Fran Merida free to Hercules
Leandro Cabrera loan to Hercules
Eduardo Salvio €10m to Benfica
Ruben Perez loan to Betis
Antonio Lopez free to Mallorca
Ruben Micael loan to Braga
Alvaro Dominguez €8m to Borussia Monchengladbach
One to Watch: Torn between Thibaut Courtois and Adrian Lopez
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