Atlético Madrid are hoping to carry its scintillating springtime form into the new season, which begins Monday night against newly-promoted Granada.
Atlético won 15 and lost only two of its final 22 games in LaLiga last season while playing attractive, high-flying football. And this summer, the club (finally) saw fit to reinforce head coach Diego Simeone’s defense, while the Antoine Griezmann-led attack has lost zero major contributors.
Griezmann led the league in assists and total goal contributions during the 2022/23 campaign, and he begins this season just 16 goals shy of becoming Atleti’s all-time leader in the category.
“We used the friendlies to emphasize that we are looking not to move away from what we did at the end of last season. We confirmed it on the pitch,” Simeone told the media on Sunday. “But beyond the words, the most important thing is the (first) game.”
Granada are back in LaLiga EA Sports after a year’s absence, having just won Segunda (now known as LaLiga Hypermotion) under former Levante boss Paco López. Reinforcements this summer for the Andalusian club include midfielders Gerard Gumbau and Gonzalo Villar, as well as former Valladolid center-forward Shon Weissman and center-back Jesús Vallejo, on loan from Real Madrid.
“We are going to compete against a newly-promoted side that has the challenge of competing well and staying in the top flight,” Simeone said. “The first game, with the fatigue of preseason, is always complicated, and we’ll deal with the situation.”
El Cholo will begin this season without his first-choice defense. His 11 in training this week has included Marcos Llorente at right wing-back and new signing César Azpilicueta starting next to Stefan Savić and Mario Hermoso. Yannick Carrasco figures to start at left wing-back over new signing Javi Galán, which should remain the case even as Carrasco’s future at the club remains unclear.
In midfield, Simeone is expected to start a trio of captain Koke, Thomas Lemar, and Rodrigo de Paul as he awaits the signing of a new pivot. Griezmann and Álvaro Morata are expected to be the starting attacking pair, with Memphis and Ángel Correa rounding out a competitive forward quartet — even if it’s missing a true “killer” #9.
“The new signings have interpreted the team’s style well, they have all adapted, and we need the five available substitutes because the strength is in those replacements,” Simeone said. “The team is very competitive. The key will be the emotional factor in the players we’ve incorporated, so they can help us maintain our level.”
Los convocados para el estreno liguero ⚪ pic.twitter.com/P3Q0z8aBxE— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) August 14, 2023
Date Aug. 14, 2023
Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:30 p.m. CEST, 8:30 p.m. BST, 3:30 p.m. EDT, 12:30 p.m. PDT