Last term was always going to be a challenge for Atletico Madrid following the departures of a host of key players in the summer of 2019. They still finished in the top three in LaLiga and reached the last eight of the Champions League but a struggle for goals was a constant issue and it’s something they will need to rectify this term. Read on for our 2020/21 Atletico Madrid season preview.
Last Season – 3rd
Atleti’s well-established defence was torn up in the summer of 2019 with the likes of Diego Godin and Filipe Luis moving on while Antoine Griezmann finally reversed his previous ‘decision’ by leaving the club to join Barcelona. Precocious Portuguese talent João Félix was the headline new arrival but struggled to make a major impression.
Their total of 51 goals was only the 7th best in LaLiga but despite the defensive overhaul, Atleti did manage to retain those solid foundations that have made them so difficult to play against for close to a decade now. With just 27 goals conceded, they managed to ultimately pip Sevilla to 3rd place and comfortably qualified for the Champions League with an unbeaten end to the season run in LaLiga post lockdown.
There was also a famous Champions League triumph over defending champions Liverpool with Marcos Llorente the unlikely hero in the 2nd Leg at Anfield. However they failed to make the most of a favourable draw to exit the Champions League at the Quarter-Final stage against RB Leipzig while a humiliating Copa del Rey exit against third tier Cultural Leonesa was another low point in a mixed season for Los Rojiblancos.
Elche Summer Transfers
Yannick Carrasco | from Dalian | Undisclosed
Antonio Adán | to Sporting Lisbon | FREE
Caio Henrique | to Monaco | €8m
Dario Poveda | to Getafe | LOAN
Francisco Montero | to Besiktas | LOAN
Alvaro Morata | to Juventus | LOAN
(Transfers up to 22nd September 2020.)
Coach – Diego Simeone
Diego Simeone will celebrate nine years in charge of Atletico Madrid this season. While there have been times during the past couple of years when sections of the Atleti fanbase have started to become frustrated, he still retains a special aura and he deserves credit for having steered the club reasonably successfully through what was unquestionably a transitional season.
That excuse won’t be as easy to play this time around though, and while he is partly the victim of his own success, the expectation will be that they can get closer to Real Madrid and Barcelona this term. We certainly know what to expect from his Atleti sides by now, but the suggestion that Simeone is a coach who rarely manages to get the best out of flair players grew in weight last term with the struggles of Joao Felix.
He will need to find a solution to that particular conundrum and find a system that serves up more goals, otherwise he can expect fresh criticism to come his way in 2020/21.
Possible Atletico Madrid Line Up 2020/21
So far, it hasn’t been a particularly active summer at the Wanda Metropolitano, at least in terms of the arrival or departure of likely starters. The only new face is goalkeeper Ivo Grbic, who will play back-up to Jan Oblak, with the other new signing Yannick Carrasco having been at the club last season on loan.
Unless there are departures, and there has been interest in centre-back José Giménez, it should be the same back four again. The onus will still be on Renan Lodi and Kieran Trippier to get forward and provide the width with Diego Simeone expected to effectively play with four central midfielders.
The emergence and to some extent reinvention of Marcos Llorente as an attacking midfielder or even support striker, was one of the surprising elements of the last campaign. He really did thrive in the role, chipping in with some key goals late in the season and frequently getting himself into good positions inside the opposition penalty area. He looks to have forged his way into Diego Simeone’s first XI as a result with Saul, Koke and Thomas Partey also guaranteed starters in midfield.
Up front is where things get interesting and the area of the team where improvement is needed if they are to be serious title challengers. Alvaro Morata, who was Atleti’s top scorer last season with 12 league goals, has departed to rejoin Juventus on loan. That leaves Diego Costa and Joao Felix as the main options in attack, although if Atleti can conclude a deal for Luis Suarez and get a good season out of him, the Uruguayan’s arrival has the potential to transform this side.
Key Man – Jan Oblak
Jan Oblak was again close to imperious during the 2019/20 season and he will be crucial for Atletico Madrid again. While there are times when he’s a relative spectator in some Atleti league games, the Slovenian never loses his focus and time and time again produces brilliant saves when his team needs it. His extraordinary display in March at Anfield was one of the standout individual performances of last season and while it has been a frustrating summer for Atleti fans in the transfer market, holding on to a player of Oblak’s calibre is one major positive.
One to Watch – Víctor Mollejo
With the likes of Francisco Montero and Dario Poveda heading out on loan, it doesn’t seem like Diego Simeone is planning to use this season to blood young players in the way that some clubs have done. One exception may be Víctor Mollejo. The 19 year old winger was a rare bright light in a difficult season for Deportivo La Coruna last season as the Galicians suffered a shock relegation from the Segunda Division. He started 29 games in the league, scoring 6 goals.
Atletico Madrid 2020/21 Targets
In a summer when Real Madrid and Barcelona have failed to strengthen, Atleti may feel as though they at least have an opportunity to mount a serious title challenge this term. Defensively they remain very solid and there were signs that the balance in midfield was starting to improve at the back end of last term. Much though will depend on what happens in the final third of the pitch.
Diego Costa simply does not look like the player of old. He only managed 5 league goals in 2019/20 while record signing Joao Felix scored just 6. It’ll be impossible for them to mount a serious title push unless there is significant improvement there and there is a danger they could slip behind Sevilla, with whom they finished level on points last term.
Atleti’s place in the top four doesn’t look under any serious threat but without genuine quality coming in up front, there’s a risk they may end up out of the top three for the first time during a full Diego Simeone season.
LLE Prediction: 4th*
*At the time of writing (23rd September). If Luis Suarez does join and manages to stay fit and produce something close to his best football, Atleti would be a different beast and could easily transform into title contenders.
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