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4 talking points from Atlético Madrid 3-1 Granada

Atleti opened the season with a win.

Atletico de Madrid v Granada CF - La Liga EA Sports Photo by Oscar J. Barroso/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid started the season with a 3-1 victory over Granada at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano. The newly-promoted Andalusians putting up a tough fight, but Atlético secured a result which perhaps flattered the Colchoneros.

There were plenty of chances for Atleti in the first half, but it wasn’t until the fourth minute of injury time that Álvaro Morata poked the ball in from a set piece to give the hosts the lead. A defensive lapse from Yannick Carrasco then allowed Samuel Omorodion to score and level the tie.

Memphis Depay then produced one of the most impressive goals that the Metropolitano has ever seen with a powerful strike from distance, with Marcos Llorente capitalising on Ángel Correa’s hard work in injury time of the second half to provide the final margin of victory.

Here are four talking points from the season opener.

1. Memphis vs Morata - a total contrast

While both of Atlético Madrid’s forwards got themselves on the scoresheet against Granada, there couldn’t have been a much more significant difference in the performances of Morata and Memphis, the man who replaced him.

Morata got the starting nod, understandably given his superior fitness levels, but looked nervous and lacking in confidence. He threw himself at everything but almost more in desperation than in hope, as reflected by thrashing an arm at a cross into the box.

The Spaniard got on the scoresheet on the stroke of half-time courtesy of a poor clearance from Granada defender Jesús Vallejo, but he also missed two shots worth 0.45 xG, and had another goal ruled out for offside (you may be shocked to hear that).

Atletico Madrid v Granada - La Liga EA Sports Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Memphis, on the other hand, came on and looked like a man in his element. His confidence was reflected in his rocket of a strike that reinstated Atleti’s lead — with a shot from a further distance than the combined total of Morata’s three attempts on goal.

The Dutchman looks to be at the top of his game, believing in himself, and playing in a deeper role, avoiding the physical battle that Granada invited Morata to get involved in.

And all the while, a certain Portuguese forward was an unused substitute. João Félix was whistled, booed and insulted by his own fans when his name was read out and in his post-match warm-down. Reports claim he was unhappy at being called up but not played.

2. Koke’s injury

It took only five minutes for Atlético Madrid to have their first bit of bad news for the season as captain Koke sunk to the turf and was forced off. It proved a tough obstacle to overcome for Atlético on the night, who took some time to adjust.

“Well, we wish that what happened to Koke didn’t happen to him, but we know and we imagined that the season is long,” Diego Simeone reflected in his post-match press conference. “Seeing what has happened to Koke, I hope he recovers in the best possible way and that he returns as soon as possible.”

The muscle injury brings back torrid memories of last season, when Koke missed six games through October and November, coinciding with a spell in which Atlético won only one and were eliminated from the Champions League as a result. This time, the 31-year-old is expected to miss at least the next three league games against Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, and Sevilla.

The bright spark was the introduction of Pablo Barrios, who played the remainder of the game and did not look at all out of place in the midfield three. It showed his importance this season, ahead of the likes of Saúl Ñíguez or even moving Llorente into midfield, both of which came later on in the game.

It only further serves to reinforce Atleti’s need for another midfielder to arrive before the close of the transfer window in just over two weeks’ time. On that topic, Simeone was clear.

“Obviously, we need reinforcements in that position,” he said. “Although plan B would be to keep Barrios playing in that position or Axel (Witsel), who has been a midfielder although I see him more as a central defender.”

3. Is Çağlar Söyüncü a better dribbler than Neymar?

Fans were curious to see quite how Çağlar Söyüncü would get on in his first appearance as an Atlético Madrid player. A huge physical presence, more so than any of his team-mates, he proved to be a difference-maker for Atlético, even in an unexpected way.

While he was strong in the tackle, what really caught the eye upon Söyüncü’s entry on the hour were two marauding runs from the halfway line and deeper into the opposition half, driving the ball toward the corner flag to advance into a more offensive position and take it away from danger. With strength and quality on the ball, it was an unexpected kind of progression which Atlético have not had in their resources for many years.

Defensively, Söyüncü looked a little more suspect than some of his colleagues, but he earned the admiration of the fans and has already shown the ability to bring something new to the squad.

Atletico Madrid v Granada CF - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

There must also be a mention for César Azpilicueta. Also making his debut in defence, he played both on the right in a back three and in the wing-back role, and produced arguably the best performance of the back line on the night.

The former Chelsea captain led by example and looked reliable throughout, shoring up the side where Llorente had left some gaps earlier on in the encounter. He won a total of five duels from eight attempts, and despite lacking that yard of pace, the 33-year-old looked solid.

4. The details can make all the difference

If there was one moment of disappointment from Atlético’s performance on the pitch, it was Yannick Carrasco’s loss of possession deep in his own half that gifted Granada possession in a dangerous position. It was from that moment that they went on to register only their second shot on target of the night to equalise.

It reflected an element of Carrasco’s game, a risk-taking gamble, that not many other players in the squad possess. But it also shows just how wrong it can go. The Belgian’s frustration showed in the aftermath, but he didn’t do much to track back and win back possession despite that.

Carrasco had a good night and looked a threat down the left flank, not holding back from bursting forward in and out of possession, but defensively he looked less interested than usual and his malaise was reflected in that moment of self-centred dribbling around his own penalty area.

Simeone is clearly keen to keep Carrasco, but he would expect better decision-making from one of his more experienced players in such a scenario. Fortunately for the Belgian, Memphis’ goal (which he assisted) meant it didn’t matter, but on another occasion it could have been more costly.