Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid have risen to prominence domestically and in Europe in recent seasons under the stern guidance of highly-driven boss Diego Simeone, and the Spanish side will want to make more strides in the Champions League this term with the club 18/1 with Coral to triumph.
Atleti’s impressive showings in Europe’s elite club competition in the last two seasons have given them hope of going all the way under their Argentine coach, and they enter a winnable Group C against Benfica, Galatasaray and Astana.
Domestic League: La Liga
How they qualified: A third-place finish behind treble-champions Barcelona and runners-up Real Madrid saw the 2013/14 Spanish league victors automatically qualify for the group stages.
Best Champions League era performance: As part of the historic La Liga-triumphing campaign in 2014, Simeone’s outstanding Atletico side were moments away from a Champions League victory too, before Sergio Ramos scored an injury-time equaliser in Portugal.
At the Stadio da Luz, bitter rivals Madrid managed to level the final in stoppage-time, after Diego Godin had headed in the opener after half an hour played, but Real cruised to victory in extra-time with goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Coach: Passionate Argentine boss Simeone has instilled a great sense of determination and a never-say-die attitude within his Atleti set-up since taking charge in 2011.
The 2014 final defeat at the hands of city rivals Real will have hurt Atleti’s boss deeply and he will look to finally deliver Europe’s top prize to the Vicente Calderon after falling at the final hurdle twice in their history.
Ins and Outs: The Spanish giants have enjoyed a busy summer of transfer activity, snapping up Jackson Martinez from Porto and Luciano Vietto from Villarreal to bolster their attacking ranks for their European assault.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is another exciting winger who arrived and could prove to be a great forward threat under Simeone, while Stefan Savic boosts the defence after Toby Alderweireld joined Arda Turan, Mario Mandzukic and Raul Garcia in departing.
Familiar faces: Former Manchester City flop Savic will be a recognisable centre back to Premier League fans, as well as full back Filipe Luis, who re-joined after a personally poor campaign with Chelsea, despite winning the English title.
And of course, don’t forget about Fernando Torres, the once £50m-man at Stamford Bridge, who is now a squad player at his boyhood club.
Key players: Despite the high-profile arrival of Martinez, France forward Antoine Griezmann is set to play a starring role again this season, having remained at the club despite interest from the likes of Manchester United.
Argentine talent Vietto will now work under fellow countryman Simeone, having arrived from the Yellow Submarine this summer and should blossom in his new surroundings.
One to watch: Returning from a successful season-long loan with Portuguese giants Porto, promising attacking midfielder Oliver Torres will have a lot to prove and can become a star with his astute creative abilities.
Emerging talent: With club captain Gabi and Tiago both in their 30s and nearing the back-end of their careers, a potential central midfield position could open up for defensive anchor Thomas Partey.
The 22-year-old Ghanaian midfielder returns from an invaluable loan stint with fellow La Liga side Almeria and will be raring to feature heavily.
Group and fixtures:
v Galatasaray (Away), September 15th
v Benfica (Home), September 30th
v Astana(Home), October 21st
v Astana (Away), November 3rd
v Galatasaray (Home), November 25th
v Benfica (Away), December 8th