While some of our players are away on international duty, the team is preparing for the tough month ahead. Between now and the next international break, Atlético play two Europa League matches, but more importantly we face almost all of our direct rivals in the next five la Liga matches. While the media and some of the optimistic fans among us have been talking up our title chances, the coming period will show us where we’re really at.
11/09/10 | Athletic – Atlético
16/09/10 | Atlético– Aris Saloniki
19/09/10 | Atlético– Barcelona
22/09/10 | Valencia – Atlético
26/09/10 | Atlético – Real Zaragoza
30/09/10 | Bayer Leverkusen – Atlético
03/10/10 | Sevilla – Atlético
*The la Liga dates aren’t final
AtléticoFans will provide you with all details in our match previews, but we’re already looking ahead to the coming fixtures.
Our Basque brothers have been tipped by many to impress this season. Athletic have managed to keep their two World Cup winners Fernando Llorente and Javi Martínez, as well as centre back Fernando Amorebieta. Coach Joaquín Caparrós has many exciting young players available, especially going forward.
Sergio Agüero and Diego Forlán have an amazing goalscoring record in San Mamés, but last season we did lose 1-0 in Bilbao. Athletic love to get stuck in and rely on their physicality, but we can probably take advantage of some weak spots in their defence, like the inexperienced left-back Aurtenetxe.
Surely the weakest opponent, on paper. According to Atlético B defender César Ortiz, who spent half a season on loan at Aris, the Greeks will put up hell of a fight in Thessaloniki, but this home match should get us off to a good start in the Europa League. It will be interesting to see if Quique will start with his best available eleven, considering the next two on the calendar.
The home match against Barcelona is usually our most spectacular game of the season. We’ve beaten the Catalonians the last three seasons scoring ten goals. Not much needs to be said about this encounter, but the whole world, or at least everyone in Spain, will be curious to see where Atlético is at and whether Barcelona will be ready to break the curse of the Calderón.
The Valencians are arguably our biggest rivals for third spot in the league, although it’s unclear how they have come out of the summer. They’ve lost key players in David Silva and David Villa, but did get off to a spectacular start by beating Málaga 1-3 in the opening match of the season. Last season we had a double confrontation with Valencia on our way to the Europa League trophy, but couldn’t beat them in either match. In the league at the Mestalla we managed a 2-2 draw thanks to a late Maxi Rodríguez equaliser.
Even though this is a home match against a side that barely escaped relegation last season, Zaragoza shouldn’t be underestimated. They have made some decent signings during the January and Summer transfer windows, and will be looking to challenge for a Europa League spot come the end of the season.
During this match we’ll welcome back some familiar faces. Zaragoza signed Leo Franco and Florent Sinama-Pongolle (loan) this summer, while they also still have Gabi on their books, who captains the side.
This game in Germany is without a doubt our toughest match of the Europa League group phase. Leverkusen will be a title contender in the Bundesliga this season and have a very young side who like to play attractive football. Atlético might be able to get through the group without too much hassle, but we will need to be on our best to get a win in the BayArena.
This match closes off the month September, but we have one more incredibly important game before the next international break.
The game against the Andalusians has become a heated battle in recent years, both on and off the pitch. Sevilla has risen to the top of the Spanish table and in recent seasons we have often been fighting it out with them for a Champions League spot. Not to mention our recent Copa del Rey final against them, in which Antonio Álvarez’ men trumped us 2-0. Last week we took the first spot in the league from Sevilla with our 4-0 win, after they had won 4-1 two days before. The Sevillians are off to a great start and will prove to be a big rival to us this season.
After the international break we face Getafe and Villarreal, two more contenders for the top spots in la Liga. However, from then on our schedule seems to be easier, with only the Derbi Madrileño on 7 November standing out.
How many points do you reckon we can take in the coming weeks?