- Atletico start season with a 1-0 victory
- Broke their transfer record to buy Joao Felix from Benfica
- Griezmann, Hernandez and Rodri have left for Barcelona, Bayern and Man City respectively
- Simeone will want his team to challenge for the league this season
A 1-0 victory, engineered by former Premier League alumni. Kieran Trippier’s cross for Alvaro Morata to score the winner meant that Diego Simeone’s side could get their post-Godin life off to a victorious start. Getafe are by no means easy opponents, finishing 5th in La Liga last season, and by making a solid start it’s clear that Los Rojiblancos are wasting no time in gelling together. Can they continue this form for the rest of the season?
All Change at Atletico
One of the meanest defences in Europe was broken up over the summer – as well as Godin’s departure, Filipe Luis and Juanfran also left, joining Flamengo and São Paulo respectively. Young left-back Lucas Hernandez traded Madrid for Munich, joining Bayern in an €80m deal. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak, arguably the best in the world in his position, still remains, as do the likes of Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic. It feels very much like the start of a new era at Atletico; Godin, Luis and Juanfran are all coming up to their mid-thirties, and had been Atletico stalwarts for most of the decade, Luis’s one season at Chelsea notwithstanding.
It’s impossible to discuss Atletico this season without mentioning the departure of Antoine Griezmann to league rivals Barcelona. One of the few players outside of the Messi–Ronaldo diarchy to rank in the top three of the Ballon D’or in recent years, he has undoubtedly been a big loss for the club. Likewise midfielder Rodri, who spent just one season in the Spanish capital before moving to Manchester City.
New signings help club to first league win
To Atletico’s credit, they have invested the money they’ve received for Hernandez, Griezmann and Rodri wisely. Yes, João Félix cost €126m, but he’s impressed in pre-season, and at 19 will only get better. So far, the decision to buy the Portuguese teenager has been well justified. He scored in the 7-3 win against Real Madrid in July, a result that the club would presumably be overjoyed to replicate in the league.
Simeone was able to field a strong side in the win against Getafe. Felix and Morata, with Thomas Lemar behind them, is a daunting prospect for any team to come up against, as Morata looks to prove a point following his switch from Chelsea. A midfield of Koke, Saul and Thomas Partey is solid while the defence has been rebuilt with a hoard of new signings.
Trippier will be looking to re-establish himself back in the England fold after a tricky season with Tottenham, while fellow new signing Renan Lodi also featured against Getafe, the fellow full-back playing on the opposite flank. The familiar centre-back pairing of Gimenez and Savic was chosen by Simeone, though new arrival Mario Hermoso made an appearance from the substitutes’ bench later on, replacing Partey.
Simeone’s continual evolution of his team
If we compare the XI who started against Getafe to the XI who drew 1-1 against Barcelona in 2014, only Koke and Diego Costa (via three seasons at Chelsea) remain. Yet, this current side is resolutely Atletico. We know how Simeone likes his team to play, and he’s succeeded in employing his favoured tactics for eight years with continued success.
Atletico’s starting XI against Getafe (2019):
Atletico’s starting XI against Barcelona (2014):
Alongside Felix, Trippier, Lodi, and Hermoso, are a clutch of fellow new arrivals. Midfielder Marcos Llorente has joined from Real in a €40m deal, centre-back Felipe has swapped Porto for Madrid, and Héctor Herrera has also arrived from Porto but on a free transfer, and will be an interesting prospect this season, to add to the competition for places in Simeone’s midfield.
Could Atletico win the league?
Yet again, Atletico supporters can look forward to seeing quality players plying their trade at the Wanda Metropolitano. There may be no Torres, Aguero, or Falcao, but this is a resolutely exciting team that is full of quality, from Oblak in goal to Felix and Morata at the other end. Could they even win the league for the first time in six years this season? Many Barcelona fans are unhappy with the regime of manager Ernesto Valverde, and it’s unclear as to what exactly is going on at Real Madrid right now, the whole club seemingly still in some sort of fugue despite their victory against Celta Vigo.
It’s going to be interesting in La Liga this season, and it could be Atletico’s year. After those agonising Champions League final defeats against their cross-city rivals, the fans deserve something to really cheer about this season, and a trophy wouldn’t be out of reach.