It may seem like the 2015-16 season just ended, but Atlético is back at it again. They will welcome newly promoted side Alavés to the Calderón on Sunday at 22:15 CET.
The red and whites had a productive preseason, finishing with 4 wins, a draw and a defeat, but the slate is wiped clean before the first match and it’s hard to know what to expect from Simeone’s men.
Cholo played his closest lineup to a starting XI last week against the Nigerian All-Stars. Oblak remained in goal with Juanfran, Stefan Savic, Diego Godin, and Filipe Luis at the back. Tiago, Koke and Thomas Partey lined up in the middle with Nicolas Gaitán, Kevin Gameiro and Saúl up front.
The first home game should see Saúl move back, taking Thomas’ spot in the midfield. Griezmann is suspended having picked up his fifth yellow card of last season in the final game against Celta Vigo, so either Carrasco or Fernando Torres will partner Gameiro in attack.
Ángel Correa is also in the squad despite only returning from the Olympics last week.
Simeone now seems to favor the attacking 4-3-3 over the 4-4-2, having tested it out a lot over pre-season. This could mean open play and hopefully several goals for Atleti in their first fixture.
Alavés used a 4-5-1 in their most recent match against Real Valladolid. Fernando Pacheco started in goal with Raúl Garcia, Alexis, Zouhair Feddal and Kiko Femenia manned the backline. Manu García, Dani Torres, Nenad Krsticic, Edgar, Ibai Gómez played in the midfield and Gaizka Toqueroa had the lone forward position.
They also have Theo Hernández now amongst their ranks on loan from Atleti, but he won’t be available to play due to terms in his contract.
Argentine manager Mauricio Pellegrino’s men finished with a record of 21-12-9 last season, enough to win the Segunda División. They only managed 49 goals, meaning they are not much of a scoring threat, but conceded just 35. A stingy defense should make Alavés a formidable opponent.
Diego Simeone had several optimistic words in the press conference before the game. He said “it won’t be easy because there are competitors but we feel strong. Alavés has a squad that is quite new, with offensive sides, good pressure and defensive grouping.”
Many would say that Atlético was fortunate to draw one of the promoted sides as their first opponent, but they should not overlook this game considering how hard it could be to score against Alavés.
Last year, it took a deflected free-kick from Antoine Griezmann to overcome Las Palmas on a difficult opening day, and the Frenchman won’t be available this time round.
Gameiro and Gaitán will be making their Atleti debuts if selected to play, although our other major summer signing Sime Vrsaljko won’t be available as Simeone opted to leave him out of his 19-man squad.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Oblak, Moreira
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Lucas, Giménez, Juanfran
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Carrasco, Thomas, Gaitán
Forwards: Torres, Gameiro, Correa