Atletico Madrid XI: Oblak, Godín, Savić, Filipe Luís, Juanfran, Gabi, Koke, Carrasco, Gaitan, Griezmann, Torres
Napoli XI: Pepe Reina, Vlad Chiriches, Raul Albiol, Faouzi Ghoulam, Elseid Hysaj, Jorginho, Hamsik, Allan, Milik, Lorenzo Insigne, Callejon
While Atlético Madrid’s preseason got underway with a 0-0 draw in Mexico against Toluca, Atleti faced a much stronger side at Allianz Arena in Munich. Napoli are a strong side who fielded their first team for this match.
In 2016-17, without doubt one of Atleti’s best players, if not their best, was Jan Oblak. When he was out for a stretch of last season, Miguel Ángel Moyá performed well, but the difference between a solid backup goalkeeper and a world-class ‘keeper like Oblak is huge. This was on show today, even in preseason. In the first half, Oblak saved Stefan Savić some face by keeping out an Arkadiusz Milik penalty in the 33rd minute. It was no perfect penalty, but what was most impressive was the amount of power Oblak generated on his save to ricochet the ball into touch. Just before halftime, Oblak again came to the rescue in saving a fantastic shot off Lorenzo Insigne’s boot.
Napoli’s goalkeeper, Spain international Pepe Reina made a good save 24 minutes in to deny Atlético the opener. In the first half, Atleti were certainly not at their best, clearly conserving energy and being very content to let Napoli have the ball. The most electric Atleti player in the first half was Yannick Carrasco, which is good to see from the Belgian, as he hopes to perform more consistently this year.
Unfortunately for Atlético, Oblak could not keep out a potent Napoli forever, and Jose Callejón opened the scoring on 56 minutes after a wonderful cross from Faouzi Ghoulam found him open at the far post. His shot on the half-volley found the top corner after Filipe Luís got caught ball-watching, and he let Callejón sneak off to create the opening for his shot. As far as pre-season defending goes, it could certainly have been worse.
The first change of the match came on 65 minutes when Thomas Partey entered in place of Nico Gaitán. Atlético got back into the match on 72 minutes, when Fernando Torres scored the first goal of Atleti’s preseason campaign. Thomas fed Antoine Griezmann, who chipped it into the path of El Niño to finish first time. It looked very awkward and required a great deal of stretching from the 33-year-old to get the requisite amount of contact, but it counted like any other goal.
Then, less than ten minutes later, after making five subs, which saw Ángel Correa, José Giménez, Lucas Hernández and Matías Kranevitter come on, it was Luciano Vietto who made his mark and scored in the 81st minute. Perhaps in a bid to save his Atlético career, Vietto stabbed home at the back post following a well-taken Carrasco corner and Thomas header.
Diego Godin got some early-season aggression out of the way with a poor challenge in the dying minutes of the match that resulted in a second yellow, but nothing uncommon to how he plays the game. Whether he is suspended for tomorrow’s match is unknown, but as it’s preseason, there’s no big deal.
Despite it being preseason, Diego Simeone celebrated in emphatic fashion, as the team did perform in the way that he wants, controlling the game without having the majority of possession. The key in this preseason is that the squad has to gel to play the style of football that Simeone wants and needs for his team to have success domestically and on the continent. Atlético now will face the winner of Liverpool-Bayern Munich tomorrow.