Atlético Madrid begin the league season with a visit from La Liga newcomers UD Las Palmas on Saturday afternoon.
Kick-off at the Vicente Calderón is set for 20:30.
Atlético’s pre-season performances have been a shining example of how to defend. Simeone’s men kept clean sheets in games against Numancia, Oviedo, Real Sociedad, Cádiz and Real Betis amongst others, and they will be looking to continue the trend in the season opener.
Los rojiblancos will be looking to improve upon the third place finish of last season, in a race that went right to the wire with Valencia. Los Che finished only a single point behind Atleti in fourth place, while the top two of Real Madrid and Barcelona were a considerable distance away.
The lack of goals last season contributed to the failed title defence – Atlético will be hoping that the key additions they have made up front will change this.
Atlético start the season having waved farewell to Mario Mandzukic and Arda Turan amongst others, hoping that the replacements Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and the trio of Jackson, Vietto and Correa have enough goals in them.
Saturday’s match also marks the first game for quite some time without Miranda in the defensive picture for Atlético – his replacement Savic will watch from the bench as Giménez and Godín receive the nod to start.
Filipe Luis is set to make his Atlético return at left-back, after joining from Chelsea in the summer. Jackson Martinez and Griezmann will start together up front. Óliver will start in the Atlético midfield.
The last time that Atlético and Las Palmas faced each other was in the 2005 Copa del Rey. Mateja Kezman scored the only goal of the game in the 86th minute to hand Atlético the win.
A lot has changed since then for both teams. Only Fernando Torres and Gabi remain in the Atlético side, whilst David Garcia and Nauzet Alemán are the only survivors for Las Palmas. The La Liga newcomers have managed to climb their way up to Spain’s top division, whilst Atleti have gone from strength to strength and won the league title amongst other European honours.
Los Amarillos finished fourth in the Segunda last season, and had to come through the dreaded play-offs to secure La Liga promotion.
Their record on the road was not great, they had only six victories. It is worth nothing that the difference in quality between the top and bottom teams in the Segunda is particularly small compared to La Liga.
They did however manage to beat Celta 2-1 in the Copa del Rey at home, before being knocked out in the return leg in Vigo.
Last season Las Palmas last season was definitely more reliant on their offensive prowess, with Sergio Arajuo a key player in the final third.
Other talented offensive player to keep an eye on is Nauzet Aleman, who has previously played in La Liga for Valladolid, Emmanuel Culio, and of course the ex-Atlético himself, Juan Carlos Valerón, who is still going strong.
The former Sevilla keeper Javi Varas should also be considered a key player for the Canaries as they will be relying more on his talent than that of the individual defenders.
“We are facing one of the top teams in the world,” Paco Herrera, the Las Palmas manager told the media before on Friday. “We have to play without fear. We’re really hoping to score.”
“We have to remain true to our philosophy, and respect every opponent. We need to take each game as it comes, just like Simeone says.”
The Atlético boss had some words to say of his own.
“Returning to the Calderón tonight generates expectations for us – but there is a lot of excitement,” Cholo told the media.
“We have a different team to other years, but we have the same spirit.”
Simeone also confirmed the starting eleven for Saturday’s game at the press conference.
Atlético XI to face Las Palmas:
Oblak, Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Filipe, Gabi, Koke, Tiago, Óliver, Griezmann, Jackson