Atletico’s extraordinary stats
Although it would take something incredible for Atletico to topple the two titans of Spanish football, it wouldn’t be the first time Simeone has achieved the impossible. Having won the 2013/14 title with 90 points, they finished 16 points off the pace in 2014/15 but collected just three points fewer than Barcelona last season.
The most remarkable thing about their 88 point haul last campaign was that they conceded just 18 goals, having conceded 29 the year before and 26 in 2013/14. There is no reason why their defensive record will worsen this season; Simeone’s tightly compact 4-4-2 formation is undoubtedly the best in world football.
And they have had a good summer in the transfer market, spending €81 million so far on the likes of Nico Gaitan from Benfica and Kevin Gameiro from Sevilla. Both of these players should fit in nicely at the Vicente Calderon.
Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
Barcelona and Real Madrid look more stable than they have at any point in the last 12 months. Zinedine Zidane has enjoyed a fantastic start to his managerial career having lifted the Champions League in May and brought fast attacking football back to the Bernabeu, whilst Luis Enrique’s Barcelona are over the wobble that almost saw them throw away the league title four months ago.
Simeone’s Atletico Madrid conceded just 18 goals in the 2915/16 season, having conceded 29 the year before and 26 in 2013/14.
Neither side has been particularly active this summer, but then again, they don’t need to be. Real exercised a buy-back clause to bring Alvaro Morata to the Bernabeu and Barcelona splashed around €50 million on Andre Gomes, but there are no galactico signings this year.
So we know what to expect. Real will continue to play the high tempo possession-centric football that Zidane installed after Rafa Benitez’s failed attempts at utilising a counter-attacking system, with focus on Gareth Bale’s floating playmaker role from the right wing. Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to flourish again this season after being freed from the restrictive role Newcastle’s manager had given him at the start of the 2015/16 campaign.
Luis Enrique plays a much faster and more direct version of football than his predecessors Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova, which has helped Leo Messi discover his best form. The explosive runs of Luis Suarez and Neymar have given the Argentine, playing from the right, more opportunities to thread passes through to his team-mates.
But it is Suarez who is stealing all the headlines these days. The Uruguayan has scored 88 goals in 98 games for Barcelona, and his hat-trick on the opening day meant that he has scored 17 goals in six games. He seems destined to take the Ballon D’Or away from Ronaldo and Messi.
There is no doubt that the podium will be taken up by these three players, or that their respective clubs will record enormous points tallies this season. The title should go right down to the wire.
Can Sevilla cause a surprise?
However, there is more to La Liga than the title race. Sevilla are arguably the most interesting club in the division this season having had their team ripped apart and rebuilt over the summer. Gameiro, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Ever Banega and Coke have all left the club, whilst their manager jumped ship to PSG.
Cesar Sampaoli, an eccentric coach, takes Unai Emery’s place and early signs suggest he will be a highly entertaining addition to the league. His frantic high pressing football produced a 6-4 win for Sevilla in their first game of the season.
The fact that the season kicked off on time, with no threat of blackouts or strikes, is already an improvement on the 2015/16 campaign. And whilst there are no major signings to excite the fans, Real Madrid and Barcelona will provide the fun with remarkable points tallies in what could be a record-breaking season for goals scored.