Atletico Madrid it ceased to be the people’s team. For some years now, the Colchonero does not fit that nickname, but in this 2021, with a spectacular passing market, he definitely abandoned the lot of modest teams of LaLiga de España, in which he has just established himself, and has a squad as if to get excited about fighting her UEFA champions league the most powerful in Europe.
Will he be able to seize this unique opportunity and leave behind the traumatic finals against Real Madrid in Lisbon 2014 and Milan 2016? Atlético has several reasons to dream with that finally happening.
First of all, and as already mentioned, the Colchonero made large reinforcements. The rojiblanco club invested more in transfers than the two greats of Spain (Real Madrid and Barcelona) for the third time in five years. Rodrigo De Paul, who comes from being champion with Argentina in the America’s Cup, came from Udinese to show that he can stand out in a big one in Europe. Brazilian Matheus Cunha, who has already won the title of ‘promise’ shining in German football and getting the gold medal at Tokyo 2020, also joined the rojiblancas ranks. And the most resounding came at the last minute: Antoine Griezmann, World champion and Atleti idol, agreed to his return on the last day of the transfer market, on loan from Barcelona.
These new figures join the great players that the club managed to retain, maintaining an infallible backbone. In the arc there are Jan Oblak, the central defenders Josema Giménez, Stefan Savic and Mario Hermoso already consolidated, Koke and Marcos Llorente mixing experience and youth in the midfield, and an infallible attacking trident made up of Ángel Correa, Luis Suárez and Joao Felix. Diego Simeone He is without a doubt one of the best squads since he took over as Atlético Madrid coach in 2011.
In addition, it is in a state of grace. The team became champion of LaLiga, beating Barça and Real Madrid, the usual candidates, and took the push to expand against the powers of the continent. The challenge now for Simeone, after a great conquest, is to once again feed the hunger for glory and reiterate that pact that he maintains with his players, that characteristic seal of his teams whose exclusive premise is to leave soul and life on the field. If that Atlético de Madrid appears, the colchoneros can dream big.
This is how Cholo explained it on ESPN after the conquest, leaving a message that can serve the new faces and that gives another foundation, in addition to the economic one, to explain the great signings:
Our essence is the way of living the game. When you get to the Atlético dressing room, some find it more difficult to adapt, others find it a little less difficult. When they adapt, they understand that only with the talent at Atlético de Madrid they don’t play. The difference is not talent, it is personality, security, conviction, commitment, team play. In 2014 they all wanted to go. Nobody wants to go today. Because you work well, there is stability and the club is strong. In addition, the good guys want to come, who used to spend less. The good guys chose to go to Madrid or Barcelona. No to Atlético ”.
The league title is already justification to outline him as one of the favorites to go far in the Champions League, but this makes even more sense if some numbers left by his consecration are reviewed. Atleti conceded no goals in 18 games, almost half of the league, and went the least defeated season of the Simeone era. These two data reflect defensive strength and solvency to achieve results, characteristics necessary to overcome the teams of great stars that are going to cross in the European competition.
He also formed an infallible duo: Suárez-Llorente. The Gunman fed on the treatment he received in Barcelona and was unstoppable since he arrived at Atlético Madrid. He was the scorer with 21 goals, with direct influence on 21 points, and together with Marcos Llorente they scored 32 goals throughout the season. The young Spaniard also demonstrated his versatility to play in various positions and was one of the coach’s indispensable players throughout the championship.
However, just as the points in favor for Atlético Madrid are several, they will also have to face some special challenges that this Champions League has.
THE DEATH GROUP
Atlético Madrid has a good litmus test at the start. Dropped into Group B, with Liverpool, Porto and AC Milan, three greats of European football that between them add 15 Champions League titles. And apparently there is someone who is already waiting to meet the Colchonero. “We have a pending account with Atlético,” Jürgen Klopp said after finishing the group stage draw and meeting his rivals. His team was eliminated last year in the round of 16 at the hands of Atleti.
Overcoming the first phase is already presented as a challenge to the Cholo.
PSG, THE SUPER TEAM FORCED TO WIN
If you want to establish yourself as the best, you must surpass the best. Before the start of the group stage, that is PSG. In terms of names, the Parisian team is the most armed and the great favorite to lift the Orejona. From the hand of Neymar, Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Kylian Mbappé (the list could go on), PSG is presented as the cuckoo of the Champions League, it is almost an obligation that the coach carries Mauricio Pochettino and his entire campus. The pressure was imposed by the club’s managers, who complied by bringing in the best, and the footballing people, by cataloging it as one of the best squads in history. Of course, that pressure can play in favor of Atlético and all the teams that aspire to fight for the title, since if it is not handled correctly, it can be destructive for PSG.
With this scenario, an Atlético Madrid full of stars and with a Spanish league under its arm will seek to prove its candidate title and win its first Champions League.
The path of the Colchonero starts on Wednesday, September 15, against Porto in the Wanda Metropolitano.