With the news that La Liga’s players’ strike was coming to an end, fans of Spanish football breathed a collective sigh of relief and turned their attention towards the first round of matches this weekend.
Atletico open their account against Osasuna, hosting the Basque outfit for a noon match on Sunday at the Vicente Calderón.
The time slot is one Spanish league officials hope will help capture a bigger share of Asia’s football viewing audience.
Last week’s work stoppage may have helped Atletico in their preparation for the 2011/12 season. It gave the club time to finalise the deals for Radamel Falcao and Arda Turan, and also navigate the Europa League qualifiers.
With star signings secured and a spot in Europe sealed, Atletico must now hit the ground running in La Liga. The match against Osasuna provides the perfect opportunity to do just this.
Los Rojillos finished ninth last year, two spots behind Atleti with 47 points while they also failed to beat los Rojiblancos both at home and away.
At the Calderon, a double by Diego Forlan helped Atleti to a 3-0 win with Kun Aguero also on the scoresheet. Later on in the season, Atleti travelled to Pamplona and came away with all three points thanks to a Diego Costa hat-trick.
It came as a huge disappointment Saturday morning when it was announced, via Atlético’s official Twitter account, that new €40 million frontman Radamel Falcao would not be featuring in this clash.
The striker’s transfer paperwork has not been sorted out yet with former team Porto, so he will be watching the match from the stands, despite being included in the match selection.
The other major announcement Saturday, was coach Gregorio Manzano’s confirmation that Elias would be the sacrificed non-EU player, meaning Eduardo Salvio, Miranda and Falcao would be taking up los Colchoneros’ three available spots.
Elias was not registered for La Liga.
The former Sevilla boss also revealed that Diego Forlán’s move to Inter Milan was on the verge of being wrapped up.
Turan was a surprise inclusion in the squad list, although it’s unclear if the Turk will see action on Sunday.
Midfielder Koke has been left out due to a muscle injury.
One player that might attract the interest of Atlético fans is Raul Garcia, who has joined Osasuna on loan and could feature in the match against his current employers.
Gregorio Manzano will aim to get his team playing much like they did when they travelled to Portugal to take on Vitória de Guimarães in the Europa League qualifier. The dominant 4-0 win away from home will fill the players with confidence and provides the perfect springboard to kick the season off in style.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Joel, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Sílvio, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Reyes, Arda Turan, Assunçao, Gabi, Juanfran
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Borja González
Don’t forget to get your score in for the 2011/12 debut of our Prediction League!