Can Atletico Madrid break in to the top two?
The 2013/14 season will mark the ten years since a side last broke up the monopoly of the top two sides in La Liga- Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Rafa Benitez guided Valencia to the league title in 2003/04 and ever since it’s been a two horse race. There have been changes in the big two this year with Jose Mourinho’s departure from Real Madrid and Tito Vilanova unfortunately having to leave his post at Barcelona, which leaves Atletico Madrid with a genuine chance to build upon last years incredible success.
Diego Simeone is entering his 3rd season with Atletico and has done a remarkable job at Los Rojiblancos. Last year was one of the most successful seasons in the clubs history with the Copa Del Rey triumph and their 3rd placed finish in La Liga. Those efforts have given themselves, and neutrals, hope and confidence that they can launch a genuine title assault this time round.
The star player of the side Radamel Falcao has since departed but his transfer fee has left them with a sizable kitty to make improvements. The addition of proven goalscorer David Villa shows they have a real ambition, one that’s being recognized by top players too. Martin Demichelis has joined from Malaga to sure up the defence along with Leo Baptistao from city rivals Rayo Vallecano leaving Atletico with a very appealing range of options upfront in the form of David Villa, Diego Costa and Leo Baptistao. The core of the side is otherwise unchanged. Koke and Thibaut Courtois are a year stronger, Felipe Luis is gaining more and more national experience with Brazil and the squad has enough depth to manage it’s newly found Champions League commitments along with the league.
To have a chance in breaking in to the top two sides in Spain, or even winning the league, they’ll have to start winning games against them. Last season it was looking as though Atletico had all the credentials to set up a charge on the title with a last minute winner against Real Sociedad and victories over Malaga, Bilbao and Sevilla. They then faced trips to Barca and Real in December and lost 6-1 over the two games. Atletico had run out of steam by the time they played the reverse fixtures and lost to the best again.
They’ll have a great chance to see how they stand against Barcelona early in the season as they compete for the Spanish Supercup and will be keen to show to themselves and others they can mix it with the big boys. Winning the Supercup would be the best preparation possible for the season ahead and if they were to do so the impact would be enormous mentally on both sides. Seeds of doubt could be sewn in the mind of new Barcelona boss Gerard Martino and his squad, whilst the whole league will sit up and take notice of Simeone’s troops. Over to you Atletico.
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