Monday, September 24, 2018

Atletico could be Barcelona’s main challengers for the Spanish title

David Nugent in Editorial, La Liga 17 Aug 2018

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On Wednesday night, Atletico Madrid defeated neighbours Real Madrid 4-2 after extra time in the European Super Cup. Los Rojiblancos have proven difficult opponents for both Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent seasons in most encounters.

Atletico have punched above their financial weight to great effect to challenge arguably the two biggest football clubs in the world in recent seasons. In 2014, Atleti even broke the duopoly by winning La Liga. This season they could repeat the trick, as the team from the Spanish capital look to be even stronger than ever.

Diego Simeone one of the best coaches in the world

One of the major factors in Atletico Madrid being able to go be competitive against the much richer teams of Real Madrid and Barcelona is the presence of the brilliant Diego Simeone.

The Argentinian is quite simply one of the best coaches in world football. Season after season Atletico remains in La Liga’s top three. In fact, the last time Atleti failed to finish in the top three of the Spanish top-flight was in 2012.

It is highly doubtful that many other coaches could have kept Atletico at such a high level as Simeone. The Argentinian has also shown great loyalty to the club, as no doubt he has had interest from elsewhere. The pair just seems to fit so well.

Atletico added wide players to their squad

Atletico’s style of play under Simeone has always been that the team keeps a tactical shape and remains compact. That meant often Atletico did not play with natural wide players on the flanks.

One example of a wide player who struggled to thrive at Atletico was Yannick Carrasco, who impressed in flashes, but failed to deliver on a regular basis.

What is interesting from Atletico’s summer transfer business is that they have added two out and out wide players to their squad in the shape of Thomas Lemar and Gelson Martins. To me, that suggests that Simeone may be willing to change the shape of his team slightly and play football that is more expansive.

The signing of the highly-rated French winger Lemar seems like something of a coup for Simeone and his club. The winger had previously been linked with moves to the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool.

However, Atletico signed the youngster from Monaco for a fee of £52.7million, which is a massive amount by the Atletico standards. He will provide a much-needed threat and width from whichever flank he plays. Lemar will no doubt be both scorer and creator of goals for the Los Rojiblancos in the coming years.

Martins joined Atletico on a free transfer from Sporting Lisbon. The club from the Spanish capital will likely have to play Sporting some sort of fee after Martins decided to terminate his contract with the Portuguese club.

Martins is another exciting wide addition to Atletico’s squad. Simeone has already stated that the 23-year-old will add another dimension to his teams attacking play.

Atletico outsiders for the Spanish title

Last season Atletico finished second in La Liga, but this season they will truly fancy their chances of winning the Spanish title. The new additions along with the already solid foundations look to be a potentially winning formula for Simeone’s side.

Atletico are odds of 13/2 to win La Liga this season, while some bookmakers have them as second favourites behind champions Barcelona to win the Spanish league title.

Barcelona are obviously still the team to beat in La Liga, especially after some clever reinforcements in Clement Lenglet, Malcom and Arthur. However, Real Madrid are showing signs that they may be going through a transition season.

The loss of record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo will have a big effect on everybody at the club. However, it is not just the loss of Ronaldo that could determine Los Blancos fortunes this season.

Last season the European champions struggled domestically. Whether new coach Julen Lopetegui can put that right only time will tell. Lopetegui will take time to get accustomed to such a big job. For me, Atletico will be Barcelona’s biggest threat in the title race.

Can Atletico Madrid challenge Barcelona for the Spanish title this season?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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