LaLiga returns this week after a 93-day break. Thursday’s Seville derby will be the first game played, but we have a full slate of action with Atlético Madrid playing Athletic Bilbao on Sunday at 14:00 CEST.
A lot has happened since football was taken away from us, so it is worth taking a look back at what happened over the last three months at Atlético to catch you back up.
Atlético beat Liverpool
Atlético’s last game before the coronavirus was bittersweet in some ways. The sight of thousands of fans at Anfield was almost surreal given people were being sent home from work and cities were shutting down at the same time. That game was played on March 11 and Spanish Pedro Sánchez called a state of alarm three days later — which will remain in place until June 21.
When news broke that LaLiga and the Champions League were being stopped, we wondered if there would be another ball kicked this season. The players worked out from home while we sat and waited for news of a restart. That news came at the end of May, with LaLiga planning to restart in June and playing the last 11 games over 32 days in the sweltering summer heat.
Tests and a return to training
Training started at the beginning of May after a round of testing. During those tests, just Renan Lodi’s result came back positive while nine players had antibodies. The left back was told he could not train for two weeks but the rest of the squad returned to individual training. That grew to an even bigger group before, eventually, Atlético were back in full swing.
Mono Burgos to leave Atlético
The lockdown also brought some more bittersweet news. Mono Burgos, Diego Simeone’s long-time assistant, announced on June 3 that he will leave the club at season’s end to forge his own path in management.
Burgos has spent time as Simeone’s assistant at Catania, Racing and Atlético. Nothing is official yet, but there are reports that he is lined up to take over at River Plate.
“I will keep the hug when we won LaLiga in 2013-14 and the hug after we beat Liverpool in the Champions League,” Burgos said in his announcement. Those are two memories the Argentine will keep close to his heart as he sets off on his own at age 51.
Nelson Vivas will replace him as lead assistant and Gabi has been touted as an addition to Cholo’s coaching staff next season too.
We still have 11 more days of Mono on the sideline before we get to see what he has planned.
Training resumes, more injuries
As training ramped up and the size of the groups allowed to train increased, so too did the intensity. And this being Atlético Madrid, “Parte Médico” quickly followed. João Félix suffered a knee sprain. Angel Correa sustained a muscular injury to his left leg three days later. Both are improving, but it seems they will not be risked against Athletic on Sunday.
Saúl announced his ‘new club’
Also on May 28, Saúl took to Twitter to announce his “new club.” Fortunately, it was news of a new Elche-based club known as Club Costa City. But this raised an important topic — players potentially leaving in the summer.
Thomas Partey was linked with a move away from Atlético during the lockdown and it reached fever pitch. He remains in talks over a new contract. Arsenal are most heavily linked and Thomas’ father came out to admit that the rumours about a Premier League move are true. Thomas’ agent refuted those comments.
Regardless, Thomas has a €50 million release clause but has an important offer on the table. Atlético want to double the midfielder’s release clause and triple his current salary. Some in the club think he has no interest in renewing if he hasn’t done so already. Others say he will renew but is just assessing his options.
Either way, this is Atlético’s latest saga.
First glimpse of a Simeone XI
It has been 90 days (at the time of publication) since Simeone named his last line-up against Liverpool in the Champions League. Word trickled out of Atlético training that Marcos Llorente could start up front on Sunday in Bilbao with Diego Costa and Yannick Carrasco as a part of a 4-4-2 — Saúl, Thomas and Koke being the other three midfielders.
Félix will miss out through suspension and Correa, a revelation this season, will as well. That means Cholo might have to get a little creative — and Llorente has won some credibility after his impressive performance against Liverpool.