clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Manchester City 1-2 Atlético Madrid: 4 talking points from an impressive preseason victory

Memphis off the bench proved one of the highlights.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester City - Preseason Friendly Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid had one of the toughest possible tests in pre-season as they took on Champions League winners Manchester City in South Korea. But after a deluge of rain delayed kick-off, Atlético more than held their own — the Rojiblancos ran out 2-1 victors in a hard-fought battle.

Memphis Depay and Yannick Carrasco were on the scoresheet as the two players came off the bench and made the desired impact. It took only four minutes for Memphis to link up with Ángel Correa in a one-two before he sent a rocket beyond Stefan Ortega in the City goal. Shortly after, Carrasco put the ball in the same spot after turning Rico Lewis inside out on the flank. Ruben Días would eventually pull one back in the closing stages, but it was too little, too late.

Here are some of the key talking points from the game in Seoul.

1. 2023/24 could be huge for Memphis Depay

Perhaps the sweetest takeaway of this highly-impressive result for Los Colchoneros was the impact of Memphis Depay.

The forward came off the bench and needed little warm-up in his first appearance since April, having only played 11 minutes since March. The Dutch international has been working hard through the summer to regain full fitness after a difficult spell at FC Barcelona saw him struggle to maintain a consistent level of performance after moving to Atlético.

Against Manchester City, Memphis claimed a goal and an assist with his terrific shot from distance and two other attempts from the edge of the box that reflected his high confidence level, as if he hadn’t been away at all.

Having Memphis at his best could make a massive difference for Atlético. He averaged a goal every 64 minutes in LaLiga for Atleti after joining, and he is a real reference point in attack, showing the cutting edge that Álvaro Morata has been unable to provide.

2. César Azpilicueta at right-wing-back is a great back-up option

Atlético de Madrid’s defence is better for the presence of summer signing César Azpilicueta. Of that there can be absolutely no doubt. Coming up against the likes of Erling Haäland, Julián Álvarez, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden was a big test for Atlético’s defence, particularly without the injured Josema Giménez and the unwell Stefan Savić.

Azpilicueta’s presence and leadership outshone the man who should have brought that 12 months ago, Axel Witsel — even though the former Chelsea FC skipper was used in a wide position, with Nahuel Molina unavailable.

It is worth noting, though, that this option should be kept for when needed. Azpilicueta handled Grealish well, but his early yellow card showed exactly how he can struggle against quick, tricky wingers. In a central role and in a deeper position, he has a little more protection and comes into these battles on his terms.

Azpilicueta is great cover here, and has proven that he can play in this role against even the best, but it’s not where he is best deployed. Four fouls and only one successful tackle from six duels with Grealish show as much.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester City - Preseason Friendly Photo by Lexy Ilsley - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

3. A message to the club with Samuel Lino

There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Atlético’s wide players in recent days, as Yannick Carrasco has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia and Samuel Lino has been connected with a potential switch to Real Betis.

Lino was selected as a starter for the second consecutive match in this pre-season campaign, again featuring in the wing-back role down the left flank — and again making a real impact. Had Morata been a bit more precise with his heading, he could easily have claimed a marvellous first-half assist.

It’s evident that Diego Simeone was sending a message to the club about the importance of Lino to his plans for 2023/24 by starting him in his second consecutive match. Losing Carrasco would be catastrophic for Atlético, Simeone’s statements on the Belgian this week prove as much, but losing both players would leave the left flank totally deserted.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester City - Preseason Friendly Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

4. Ilias Kostas is one to keep an eye on

Ilias Kostas, a 20-year-old central defender, came on Sunday as one of a raft of changes with several established first-team players. He was the only player to be stepping up after featuring in the club’s B team last season, as well as in the UEFA Youth League.

Kostas featured on the left of the back three, looking to replicate his form from the B team that earned him a contract extension to 2027 earlier this year. His rise has seen him capped by Cyprus under-21s, and this was his first appearance for the first team.

Kostas looked comfortable and positioned himself well throughout his 30 minutes on the field, engaging in a tough battle up against Julián Álvarez and James McAtee. He avoided some of the intensity of the Man City attack in the first half, only having to engage in two direct duels, but still did not look out of place.

What was particularly interesting was his distribution. As he replaced Mario Hermoso, Kostas took up the role of distributing from deep with two long balls.

There is plenty of cover in this back line, but the future could be bright for Ilias — he showed as much in his minutes in Seoul.