By 90Min
August 19, 2019

Diego Simeone has been at the helm of Atletico Madrid since 2011, and there isn't a more suited partnership than the fiery Argentine and the Atleti bench. 

He's achieved great success, building the club in his image and leading Los Rojiblancos to major honours, including a sensational league title in 2014. 

Although Simeone's warriors have finished runners-up in La Liga for the past two seasons, they haven't challenged champions Barcelona with a genuine title race. That could all change this year. 

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Here's a look at why Atletico Madrid supporters should be optimistic about their team's chances going into the new season. 


Shrewd Sales in The Transfer Window

 

On the face of it, Atleti appear to have spent a ton of money this summer. But if you look closer, the devil is truly in the details. 

Los Rojiblancos have spent almost €250m on new talent, but have accrued €310m from outgoings, as Simeone demanded a revolution in his ageing and tiring side.

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The Madrid club received huge transfer fees for want-away star Antoine Griezmann, new Manchester City midfielder Rodri, and defender Lucas Hernandez. The trio raked in a whopping €270m, and Atleti fans will not have been too sorry to see the back of any of them. Well, maybe a bit.

Griezmann has been a disruptive figure for a couple of years at the Wanda Metropolitano, Rodri didn't fit the Argentine boss' robust and aggressive style of football, and Bayern massively paid over the odds to bring in Hernandez. Good business all around by Atleti. 


A Brand-New Defence

Atleti's biggest transformation comes at the heart of their defence, as old reliables Filipe Luis, Juanfran and captain Diego Godin were released when their contracts expired. 

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Simeone's desire to freshen up his elderly backline has seen the arrival of Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier, centre-back Felipe signed from Porto, and highly-rated Spaniard Mario Hermoso from Espanyol. 

A younger, hungrier and more dynamic backline will quickly learn to play the Simeone way, and those clean sheets will quickly come rolling in. Oh, and Trippier provided the cross for the winning goal in the 1-0 win that opened Atleti's season on Sunday night. That helps.


3) The Joao Felix Factor

In the knowledge that Griezmann was planning another 'free the hostage' announcement video, Atleti went out and splashed the cash on Europe's most exciting star, Joao Felix. At €126m, his signature came at a huge cost, and it was also an enormous risk, based on only one season of top-flight football. 

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Felix has settled the nerves instantly, however, producing some sensational football during Atleti's pre-season tour, when Los Rojiblancos tore apart city rivals Real Madrid, dishing out a 7-3 trouncing to Zidane's side. 

The Portuguese starlet looks ready to rock and roll, and the name 'Antoine Griezmann' may soon be forgotten at the Stadio Wanda Metropolitano. The run for the penalty he won against Getafe on Sunday night...woof. Atleti fans will be hoping the injury that forced him off isn't too serious.


Real Madrid and Barcelona in Chaos

It always helps when your fellow title challengers are in a bit of disarray. Barcelona looked a shadow of their former self in the season-opening defeat to Athletic Club, putting in a very disjointed performance.

Speaking of shadows, Neymar's silhouette is looming large over Camp Nou, as Barcelona pursue a move for the miserable Brazilian star. The protraction of his transfer hangs heavy over Barça heads, and it may even affect dressing room morale as Jordi Alba recently described the saga as 'tiring'

With Lionel Messi out injured and Luis Suarez joining him for a spell on the sidelines, La Blaugrana may suffer a tough start, which Atleti must take full advantage of.

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Meanwhile, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has been made a fool of by the transfer market this summer, demanding the sales of James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale, declaring they have no place in his plans – only to be forced into a U-turn when no buyers could be found.

His authority at the club must be questioned, as the pair were involved in their first league fixture away at Celta Vigo on Saturday. 

Zidane is clearly not happy with his squad, and Los Merengues suffered an atrocious pre-season, shipping an alarming number of goals and generally looking clueless. If Zidane's league record continues to falter, Atleti are primed to leave their rivals in their dust. 


Tactical Tweaks Could Make the Difference

Simeone's style of play is certainly not for the faint-hearted, and his blood and thunder approach can upset the best of teams on its day. 

However, the introduction of Felix to their side has added an extra sprinkle of flair and guile, and although Trippier is not known for his defensive solidity, he certainly knows how to whip a dangerous cross into the box. 

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The Atleti boss has received plenty of criticism in the past for not changing his system against weaker opposition, and remaining far too tactically limited and rigid. 

It seemed unlikely that the Argentine would ever change his ways, but his new Atleti side has produced a much more attractive and encouraging style of play for their supporters to look forward to this season.


A Promising Opening Day Performance and Result  

Atleti continued their strong pre-season showing and turned in a solid opening day display against Getafe on Sunday evening. Simeone's side got off to a promising start to their title challenge, beating the surprise Europa League qualifiers 1-0 thanks to a first half strike from Alvaro Morata. Yes, 1-0. The players may change, but it's still a Diego Simeone side. 

It's been an excellent and exciting summer in the red and white half of Madrid, and there is plenty for their supporters to dream about over the coming nine months. 

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