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Atlético Femenino update: Levante halt perfect start

New-look Atlético are striving to return to European football after last season’s heartache.

Rangers WFC v Atletico de Madrid Femenino - International Friendly
Xènia Pérez is expected to help change Atlético’s defensive fortunes.
Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Andrea Stašková’s 89th-minute goal on Sunday was not enough to help Atlético Madrid preserve their unbeaten start, as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Levante on matchday 3 of the newly-branded Liga F.

Despite the defeat, Atlético Madrid are still upbeat on their chances of competing for a spot in next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League, even though their rivals continue to improve drastically — namely Real Madrid, who have a 100 percent record with two straight wins.

Levante moved ahead of Atlético in the early table with nine points, while dominant FC Barcelona remain at the top of the table after ringing up a staggering +12 goal difference in just 3 games.

In the opening two games, Óscar Fernandez’s side had produced two victories. Atlético launched their campaign with a brilliant 3-1 win away at Sevilla, with forward Ludmila grabbing a brace.

In the following game, the first on home soil this season, another Ludmila goal at the death handed Atlético a precious 1-0 win over Deportivo Alavés.

Although the Levante defeat might feel like a setback, the 2022/2023 campaign sees Atlético entering a new cycle, with several new players acquired after a busy summer.

While Ludmila remains the focal point upfront, Czech Republic international Staśková was brought in from Juventus to fill in Deyna Castellanos’ void — the Venezuelan left for Manchester City.

Another important arrival at the club is Marta Cardona, the right-winger who previously played at Real Madrid. She signed a one-year deal to move across the city.

Cardona is an important player for the Spanish national team, as well. She scored the last-gasp winner against Denmark in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 group stages.

Spain v Ukraine: Group B - FIFA Women’s WorldCup 2023 Qualifier
Marta Cardona of Spain in action during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Qualifier group B match between Spain and Ukraine at Ciudad del Futbol de Las Rozas on September 06, 2022 in Madrid.
Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Twenty-six year-old Irene Guerrero was also acquired to help replace former midfield duo Amanda Sampedro and Silvia Meseguer. Guerrero, who previously played at Real Betis in addition to Levante, put pen to paper on a three-year deal at Atlético.

Left-back Ainhoa Moraza, also 26, signed a contract to 2025 after spending the past three seasons at Real Sociedad and coming close to securing a spot in Jorge Vilda’s squad for the 2022 European Championships.

Atlético have also invested in promising young talents, with the arrivals of 18-year-old striker Lucia Moral (U-19’s Euro winner with Spain) and 2004-born Andrea Medina, who was also part of Spain’s U-19 side.

Former Sporting Huelva captain Cinta Rodrigues has also joined. Despite her young age (22), she brings a lot of defensive experience to Fernández’s back line.

Rodrigues is joined by 20-year-old Xènia Pérez, who has arrived from Espanyol, and Eva Navarro, who is still considered a hot prospect in Spanish football despite suffering two devastating anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Navarro is a former U-17 European and world champion with Spain as well.

Unfortunately, one of the newcomers had to go under the knife following a fibula fracture during a pre-season warmup against Bayern Munich. German defender Merle Barth has been ruled out for multiple months after just joining from Turbine Potsdam.

Rangers WFC v Atletico de Madrid Femenino - International Friendly
Lola Gallardo of Atletico de Madrid during the friendly match between Rangers WFC and Atletico de Madrid Femenino at Pinatar Arena on August 1, 2022 in Murcia.
Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There was also a captaincy switch at Atlético this summer, in addition to all the transfer activity.

Goalkeeper Lola Gallardo, in her 10th season at the club, took over from Sampedro, who moved to Sevilla — and actually set up her new team’s equalizer against her old one on the opening day.

Meanwhile, cancer survivor Virginia Torrecilla has renewed for another season at Atlético Madrid, while she will also take up the role of ambassador for Fundación Atletico de Madrid projects.

At youth level, there has also been a coaching change in the Atlético B squad.

Former footballer Virgy Garcia has taken over as the new coach there. The 34-year-old spent 12 years in the top flight and has moved to the capital after one season at Sevilla’s youth team.