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FC Barcelona's Next La Liga Opponent: Jornada 18 – Atlético Madrid S.A.D Scouting Report & Key Battles

Hello and welcome to the scouting report and key battles weekly column! This week’s edition will take a closer look at Atléti’s transfers, form, strategy, a few things you (probably) didn't know about the club, predicted line-up and key battles.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Diego Simeone. He's a serial winner and has time and time again showed us the things that money can't buy: outstanding team ethics, otherworldly loyalty and an absolutely inspiring will to win. There is no question in my mind as to who should pick up the World Coach of the Year award on Monday. The work Diego Simeone has done at Atléti is nothing short of spectacular. It's no freak accident that, more often than not in the past season or so, he's gotten the better of both Real Madrid and Barcelona. And on a smaller budget. Even when matches have ended as a draw, it has usually suited Atleti. You can read more about El Cholo here.

You can also read more about his and Atléti's fantastic tactics with two comprehensive articles here and here.


Atlético Madrid let go of a few key players but there is little doubt in my mind that their transfer window was successful. Diego Simeone continues to work wonders with what he has.

Atléti's biggest and most promising signing is no doubt Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad for £26,40 million. What a signing he is proving to be. He's fulfilling all expectations. They have also signed Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich for £19,36 million, Jan Oblak from Benfica for £14,08 million and Alessio Cerci (whom they have since sold to Milan) from Torino for £13,20 million.

Lesser known signings were also made in Raul Jimenez from America for £9.24 million, Guilherme Siqueira from Granada for £8,80 million, Angel Correa from San Lorenzo for £6,60 million, Miguel Angel Moya from Getafe for £2,64 million, Jesus Gamez from Malaga for £2,20 million and Emiliano Velazquez from Danubio for £938,000.

Atleti have loaned in Cristian Ansaldi and club legend Fernando Torres. Atléti have also signed Cani on loan just earlier this week. They have also brought in Andre Moreira and Jonathan Ortiz.

As is now well-known to most, Atlético Madrid sold Diego Costa and Filipe Luis to Chelsea for £33,44 million and £17,60 million respectively. They also sold Adrian to Porto for £9,68 million, Roberto to Olympiacos for £5,28 million and Sergio Asenjo to Villarreal for £4,40 million.

David Villa, Diego and Daniel Aranzubia left on a free transfer.

In addition, several players left on loan, this includes, Josuha Guilavogui (loan fee: 4,84 million), Javier Manquillo (loan fee: 1,76 million), Ruben Perez (loan fee: £440,000), Oliver Torres, Borja Baston, Emiliano Velazquez, Leo Baptistao, Emiliano Insua, Alessio Cerci and Toby Alderweireld.

Thibaut Courtois and Jose Sosa returned to their club after the end of their loan.


Atléti's league form is pretty emphatic. They have 10 wins in the last 13 La Liga games, with the other 3 being losses. They are consistent, persistent and very difficult to beat. Of course, they've just come off a very impressive 2-0 win against arch-rivals Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey. It's certainly a great time to be an Atlético Madrid fan.


As has been well documented, Atlético Madrid are very strong at attacking set-pieces and at aerial duels. They are also strong at finishing scoring chances, creating scoring chances and defending set-pieces.

Atlético Madrid have very few weaknesses, according to WhoScored, their only weakness is protecting the lead.

In terms of style of play, Atléti like to play with intensity, full stop. They would run through a brick wall for their manager. They also play with width, attempt crosses often, controls the game in the opposition's half and prefer attacking down the right with the incredibly dangerous Arda Turan and Juanfran.

Atlético Madrid usually play with a 4-4-2, but it's flexible and not your usual rigid 4-4-2 formation.

A Few Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Atlético Madrid S.A.D

The Libero Guide writes: "Proud... The website of 2014 Spanish champions Atlético Madrid ran this one word over an image of their brave, weary players applauding their fans for carrying them through the most remarkable season in the club's history.

Galvanised under coach Diego Simeone, a week after winning the league, Atlético had come within two minutes of a first Champions League title. They had outrun, outfought and simply outplayed the world's richest club, city rivals Real Madrid, until a late equalising header had sent the game into extra-time.

Now running out of stamina, and having lost star striker Diego Costa early on in the game, Atlético buckled under goals from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, world-record signings both. Atlético's solitary strike, and title-winning goal the week before, had come from €8 million Uruguayan defender Diego Godín. And Atlético's remarkable 2013-14 season had started with the €60 sale of Radamel Falcao, one of the world's greatest strikers, to Monaco...

Atlético Madrid were founded as Athletic Club de Madrid in 1903 by local Basque students, a branch of the namesake team in Bilbao, and similarly first wore blue, then red-and-white stripes.

Ever since, the ‘Rojiblancos' have also been known somewhat mockingly as the ‘Colchoneros', the ‘Mattress-Makers', a reference to the cheaper beds of the day. Certainly, the later Atlético were working-class, first based at Vallecas, then, after separating from Athletic Bilbao, at the Estadio Metropolitano.

Success only came immediately after the Spanish Civil War, when Atlético merged with Athletic Aviación, the Air Force team. Under the managership of legendary goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora, Athletic - later renamed Atlético by Franco - won two titles and beat Real Madrid 5-0.

After two further title wins under Helenio Herrera, Atletico were a major force, albeit one behind Real and Barça. As the giants waned, Atlético nipped in to win the league, and gain sundry silverware - including the Cup-Winners' Cup of 1962. Soon after the championship win of 1966, long-term club president, Vicente Calderón opened a new stadium on the banks of the river it abutted: the Manzanares. After his death, it bore his name.

Ruthless Argentine coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo and his team of compatriot hatchet men won Atlético the title again in 1973, and kicked their way to the European Cup Final of 1974. Lorenzo was replaced by former Atlético goalscorer Luis Aragonés, who would have four stints as coach at the club.

Another controversial figure, ex-Marbella mayor, Jesús Gil y Gil, became long-term club president in 1987, seeing out 30 coaches. Only one, Radomir Antić, won Gil the title, in 1996, thanks to fellow Serbian playmaker Milinko Pantić and Argentine Diego Simeone. Gil then paid a fortune for top foreign stars Christian Vieri and Juninho. The club lost balance, momentum and eventually even their top-flight status. Gil ended up in jail."

Predicted Line-up

Miguel Angel Moya will start in goal. The defence is pretty much set in stone, Juanfran will start at right-back, the hugely impressive José Gimenez (Miranda is still injured) and Godin at centre-back and Guilherme Siqueira at left-back.

Arda Turan should start on the right, Gabi and Tiago in centre and Koke on the left.

Antoinne Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic should start up top, although Raul Garcia will challenge for Griezmann's position.

Possible XI (4-4-2): Moya; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Guilherme; Turan, Gabi, Tiago, Koke; Griezmann, Mandzukic

Key Battles

Ability to break down v A compact defence: Atléti's defence will stay as compact as possible and look to limit Barcelona chances by hounding and pressuring with intensity, just as they did this midweek against Real Madrid and against Barcelona in fixtures last season. Barcelona will look to break down the defence, and with Messi, Neymar and Suarez all starting, it's a good possibility.

Midfield v Midfield: Atlético Madrid's counter-attack and Barcelona's high defensive line is important, but there is no doubt that the midfield battle is crucial and possibly where the match will be won and lost (or drawn). Whilst Atléti's midfield is predictably strong, Barcelona's is unpredictable. Will Busquets or Mascherano start in midfield, will it be Rakitic or Xavi (if fit) and how will they all perform? Will it be a repeat of Real Sociedad or Elche? Only time will tell. But the midfield will need to perform close to its best to get a win against Atléti.

Set-pieces v Set-pieces: How will the two teams fare in set-pieces? Atlético Madrid, the masters of set-pieces and headers, have scored an outstanding 19 goals from set-pieces according to Squawka, whilst Barcelona have scored a comparatively measly 5 (excluding direct free-kicks and penalties).

Luis Enrique v Diego Simeone: In what will quite probably be Lucho's last game as a Barcelona manager if reports are to be believed, it will be interesting to see how he approaches it and which side he picks. You always know what you'll get with El Cholo, so there won't be any surprises on that count.

Final Thoughts

It's difficult predicting results for Barcelona matches nowadays. I think it will be tight and that both teams will score. I predict a 1-1 draw.

There is a lot to respect about Atlético Madrid. I therefore wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season.

Thank you for reading, take care and goodbye until next time!

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