Atletico Madrid have managed a 1-0 win against traditional European heavy weights Bayern Munich in the first leg of UEFA Champions League fixture on Wednesday evening. For me, the result came as no surprise and I firmly believed that the one team the other three semi-finalist wanted to avoid was Atleti.
Since Diego Simeone became manager of Atletico Madrid in 2011, the club has performed exceptionally well not only in La Liga but in European competitions. Simeone is now slowly turning Ateltico Madrid into a European powerhouse.
He has guided them to the UEFA Europa League title and the UEFA Super Cup in 2012, the Supercopa (Spanish Cup) in 2014 and also making the UEFA Champions League final in 2014. However, the most esteemed trophy he has won undoubtedly is the La Liga title in the 2013-14 season where Atletico finished 3 points clear of European Giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It is easy to think that this trail of success will eventually end and not having the squad depth to match with other European Giants although they have been able to find and develop players to make the team even stronger. Atletico has found ways to find goal scoring strikers from Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero, Radmel Falcao, Diego Costa to the current strikers of Antoine Griezmann, Angel Corea, Luciano Vietto and the return of Fernando Torres.
Their current squad has experienced campaigners like Diego Godin, Felipe Luiz, Juanfran, Gabi, Tiago and Fernando Torres. Godin is one of the best defenders in the world. Felipe Luiz and Juanfran are hard-working two running fullbacks that skilfully defend and can also attack. Gabi is often consistent in the midfield while Torres has found some late season form, scoring goals and looking dangerous since his days at Liverpool.
Atletico is currently blessed with some of the best young talent such as goalkeeper Jan Oblak, defenders José Giménez and Lucas Hernandez, midfielders Matias Kranevitter, Saul Niguez, Oliver Torres, Yannick Carrasco and strikers Angel Corea and Luciano Vietto.
The remarkable thing is that all of these players are still under 23 years old. Also not to forget the playmaker styles of Koke who is only 24 years old and goal scoring forward Antoine Griezmann who has been magnificent this season who is still only 25 years old.
Koke gives the team so much in the midfield with his slick passing and intelligence on and off the ball that makes him dangerous while Griezmann’s ability to score on both feet makes him a definite threat to the opposition.
Their defence is strong but it is their team defence that is impressive. Everyone on the pitch has a role to play defensively forcing the opposition to turn the ball over. They have only conceded 16 goals in 35 league matches and 5 goals in 11 European matches. This is why they do not concede as much as Barcelona and Real Madrid and this is credit to Simeone’s game plan.
Antoine Griezmann has led the goal scoring with 20 goals in all competitions with Fernando Torres next on the list with 9 goals while Koke has the most assists with 13 in all competitions. They may not score as heavily as other European Giants but their defence mentality makes them a hard team to break down.
There is no doubt that Atletico Madrid has talent in every position. This season they are currently in the Champions League Semi Final and sit on a 1-0 lead against Bayern Munich heading into the second leg in Munich and sit in second place in La Liga behind Barcelona on goal difference. If they are not a European Giant before then they are most certainly are now.