Atléti v Numancia 27/07/2022

Watching the ball strike the trailing hand of Stefan Savic, who had slid in at just the wrong moment, which led to a Numancia penalty with less than 2 minutes on the clock, left me with nothing else to say other than "here we go again". The whole forthcoming season flashed before my eyes. More emabarrasing cup exits, more points dropped against bottom half opposition. Surely this wasn't going to be "same s**t new season" was it? But how quickly all those thoughts would disapear when the man who has just confirmed his loyalties to the club for a further 5 seasons, Jan Oblak would make the save. No preseason rustiness from the big Slovenian. After a further minute of defensive shakiness following the penalty, the ship seemed to settle and it was plain sailing from there on.

A new (but old) look Atléti cruised to their 4-0 victory in the Memorial Jesus Gil match in the town of Burgo de Osma, which as every year, was their first match of the preseason. A Morata-Correa partnership upfront led a 3-5-2 which although was missing many "estrellas", still looked like a very strong 11 on paper. A stern De Paul-Kondogbia midfield duo allowed Lemar to stroll forward and make things happen in the first half being rewarded with a goal for his efforts. A rocket strike into the top corner, found by Correa's pass after a clever run from Alvaro Morata cleared space for the Frenchman to appear and open his and Atléti's account for the season.

The pick of the match's goals came when Carrasco looped up a corner high to the back post where arguably last season's best player, Angel Correa, somehow connected the interior of his weak foot to the ball, whilst falling backwards, sending the ball curling into the far corner on the volley. A beautful goal from a player I hope gets a leading role in the team this season, albeit with stiff competition. De Paul rounded off the first half with another volley direct from a corner kick, this time deflecting past the helpless Numancia goalkeeper.

The following 45 minutes brought us a look at more returning loan players from last season. Roro Riquelme, Ivo Grbic and Saúl Ñíguez were also joined by new signing Axel Witsel (playing at centre back) in a completely changed eleven from the first half. It was Matheus Cunha who would head in the only goal of the second half, sporting the number 9 shirt for the first time since the departure of Luis Suarez. Something which I must say just looks right.

With it being the first match of the preseason, we can forgive the small hiccups that will be ironed out over the next 2 weeks before the season proper starts, with the players having come straight from the notoriously tough training camp of Profe Ortega in Los Angeles de San Rafael. However one player who's cobwebs were more present than the rest was Antoine Griezmann. Seeming to continue his inability to find an end product, Griezmann had plenty of action in the opening of the second half, but little to show for it. And as the pattern of last season tended to show, then proceeded to have a very unexciting end to the game. Yes he was moved to a deeper role, but you would think a 'world class' player as himself would have more to say against a team playing in the third tier of Spanish football.

An ankle injury would force off Mario Hermoso on 66 minutes; a precautionary decision by the looks of things but one which left Atléti playing the last 25 minutes or so with a centre back partnership of Witsel and Saul (with the help of ever reliant Koke from time to time). A comforting feeling to know that the new Belgian can fit into that role if needed as can Kondogbia. On paper, a solid looking squad from a central midfield/defense point of view for the upcoming season.

Atléti's next match will take them to Norway to face a much tougher test in Manchester United. A fixture surrounded by rumours of whether a certain Portugese striker of their's will make the switch to join the Colchoneros before the transfer window is up. Having not featured in any of United's preason fixtures so far, it's unlikely he will even travel to Oslo. Probably a good thing for him, considering what happened the last time he had to spend a match between Savic and Gimenez.

Oh yeah, and an academy goalkeeper played as a striker with Felipe's shirt on for 15 minutes. Atlético de Madrid are back.