Atletico Madrid Season Preview: Can Atleti challenge for the title?
Joao Felix is the new Atletico Madrid superstar (Getty Images/Charlie Crowhurst - International Champions Cup)

The summer of 2019 will be looked back on as a summer of change for Atletico Madrid. Following on from last summer's move to their new stadium, they have looked to challenge their potential by bringing in a whole host of new faces, not without some key departures however.

Atleti will look back on last season with a tinge of disappointment. Despite finishing in second place, above their rivals Real Madrid, in La Liga, they were knocked out the Champions League by Juventus in the last 16 having surrendered a two goal advantage from the first leg. They also fell out of the Cope del Rey at the same stage but this time to Girona

Transfer Business Overview

What has turned Atleti into a major European force in the last five years is the core and spine to their side within a straight 4-4-2. Now the majority of key players who were part of that core have gone.

This summer has seen key defenders, Diego Godin, Felipe Luis and Juanfran all leave after the expiry of their contracts. Along with them Lucas Hernandez, who was viewed as part of Atleti's next generation of defenders has joined Bayern Munich for £72 million. 

Rodri has also departed to Manchester City for £63 million. Among these players who have left though is their star man for the past seasons, Antoine Griezmann, who has joined rivals Barcelona after they triggered his £108 million release clause. 

While on the face of it these departures look harmful for Atleti's chances of success and silverware this season, they already had some exciting business up their sleeves. 

Immediately they brought Marcos Llorente in from city rivals Real for £30 million, followed by former Porto captain Hector Herrera  on a free transfer to strengthen their central midfield. 

Defensively they replaced Luis with another Brazilian left back in Renan Lodi coming in from Atletico Paranaese for £20 million. Mario Hermoso who helped Espanyol qualify for the Europa League arrived for £25 million and Felipe came in from Porto for £20 million to cover the gaps left at centre back. The replacement for Juanfran at right back raised plenty eyebrows as Kieran Trippier made the switch from Tottenham Hotspur for £22 million.

The marquee signing over the summer however and the man to replace Griezmann long term was Joao Felix who joined from Benfica for £126 million. Felix was one of the most sought after youngsters in world football with all major clubs sniffing around for his signature. 

Manager: Diego Simeone 

One of Atleti's first pieces of business this summer was to tie up Simeone on a longer contract with his previous one set to expire. He was linked with Inter Milan before they appointed Antonio Conte but that was put to bed when he signed a new contract until 2022. 

This will be a testing season for Simeone as he hasn't had to rebuild his squad to this extent with Atletico. He hasn't only had to rebuild build but has had to rebuild with quality due to the standard of players who have exited the club. It is also the first time he has had a transfer budget that can rival Barcelona and Real Madrid so there is pressure on him, and his new arrivals, to make this work. 

Player To Watch: Joao Felix 

This is going to be one of most interesting signings in European football this season. At only 19, Felix has a lot of weight on his shoulders being Atleti's record signing. 

Where Griezmann was a complete forward for Atleti providing goals and assists, Felix won't be coming in as a like for like positional replacement. It is likely he will be playing slightly deeper, in behind either Diego Costa or Alvaro Morata, or even as a right sided midfielder in games were Simeone will be looking to hit teams on the counter attack. 

One For The Future: Renan Lodi

There will be a fair bit of pressure on Lodi from early on in his time at Atleti. There isn't a great deal of cover at left back this season so he will be tasked to play a lot of football in his first season in Europe. Coming over from the Brazilian top flight there will be increase in standard compared to La Liga but one he will have to adapt to quickly. 

At just 21 Simeone views Lodi as his left back for the long term future so giving him plenty time on the pitch early is crucial for his development and confidence. 

Simeone has very rarely introduced youth players for the sake of it, preferring experienced pros who he can trust and understand their qualities. So it is intriguing to see him shift to bring in a younger player who will go directly into his first team. 

Predicted finish

After finishing ahead of Real Madrid last season, Atletico will be looking to repeat that this season. However, due to the poor performance in the league of Real it is unlikely they will get it as easy this time around. 

With both Barca and Real spending big this summer the competition among the top three in La Liga will be tight. Along with that Valencia have recruited well, as have Real Betis

Atletico's ceiling this season could be as champions. If their squad gels quickly, they start well and key players avoid injuries this could be their year. Quality wise from goalkeeper to attack their squad holds up and with arguably the best manager in the league there is no reason why Atletico can't challenge for the La Liga title this season.

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