Atlético Madrid well-placed for another title push

Barcelona won LaLiga by 14 points last season, but that bald statistic does not tell even half the story as Atlético Madrid pushed the Catalan giants incredibly hard.

The title hinged on Atlético's trip to Camp Nou in early March, when a typically brilliant Lionel Messi free-kick earned Barcelona 1-0 victory that put them in pole position for the league.

Diego Simeone thereafter switched his focus to the Europa League and Antoine Girezmann scroed twice in a 3-0 defeat of Marseille in the final to justify that decision in some style.

Atlético - who downed Real Madrid 4-2 in the UEFA Super Cup - look poised to offer Barça their strongest competition again this term, with their city rivals adapting to a new era without Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.

But do they have what it takes to give Simeone his second LaLiga title? Omnisport assesses the key factors in a possible Atletico challenge.

Simeone's Atleti is one of the main candidates to win LaLiga. Witness Rojiblancos quality at the majestic Wanda Metropolitano as they face Rayo Vallecano for their first home match of the season by booking your tickets here and now!

Griezmann staying a huge boost

World Cup winner Griezmann is a serious contender for this year's Ballon d'Orand the fact he will be lining up for Atlético again this season is massive for Simeone.

Griezmann has been targeted by Barça two years in a row and both times Atleti have been able to repel their rivals, even if this time the France forward went to the trouble of making a television documentary where he mulled over his decision in excruciating detail.

Getting Griezmann to sign another new contract quietens the speculation - at least for now - and his partnership with Diego Costa should develop further over the season.

Costa's 27 goals fired Atlético to LaLiga glory before he joined Chelsea and, now the Brazil-born Spain striker is back, there is every chance he could do it again, with a brace in the Super Cup showing his sharpness.

Griezmann was not the only Atleti player linked with a move either, as defensive lynchpin Diego Godín was reportedly a target for both Juventus and Manchester United. But the Uruguay international is staying put and both men are captains for Atleti in 2018-19.

Simeone's Atleti is one of the main candidates to win LaLiga. Witness Rojiblancos quality at the majestic Wanda Metropolitano as they face Rayo Vallecano for their first home match of the season by booking your tickets here and now!

Atlético no longer reliant on star men

Not only have Atletico retained top talent, they have invested heavily in adding quality and depth to a squad that has leaned on Griezmann too much in recent years.

Thomas Lemar did not show the best of his ability in 2017-18 but he played a key role as Monaco won the Ligue 1 title in the previous campaign. He adds a further France flavour to a squad that will see Lucas Hernández increasingly influential at the back this term.

Gelson Martins has arrived from Portuguese giants Sporting CP and he offers searing pace and a further goal threat, the 23-year-old having scored eight league goals in 30 games last term. A front four of Griezmann, Costa, Lemar and Martins can compete with anyone in world football.

Although club icons Gabi and Fernando Torres have both departed, incoming players appear upgrades on the veteran duo. Rodrigo returns after developing into a Spain international at Villarreal, while Nikola Kalinic will hope to put a poor spell at AC Milan behind him.

Former PSV defender Santiago Arias may also be an improvement at right-back on Kalinic's fellow Croatia international, right-back Sime Vrsaljko, who was sold to Inter. 

Atlético have bought very well during the close-season and in the event of Griezmann having an off-day, or suffering injury, it need not be devastating for their title chances. Rodri has claimed Atleti now have the strongest squad in LaLiga and he may well be right.

Simeone's Atleti is one of the main candidates to win LaLiga. Witness Rojiblancos quality at the majestic Wanda Metropolitano as they face Rayo Vallecano for their first home match of the season by booking your tickets here and now!

Source: AS 

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