Diego Simeone is building an Atletico Madrid team ready to challenge for everything… with Joao Felix the centrepiece, a first-class midfield and defenders in the form of their life, there is no excuse not to mount a serious bid for honours this year
- Diego Simeone will soon have no excuses left not to mount a bid for silverware
- The Atletico Madrid boss is piecing together a team ready to seriously challenge
- He can feel confident about what the rest of the season has in store for his team
- Midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia is edging closer to joining the club from Valencia
- The form of Joao Felix and in-form defenders will also help in the quest for glory
As Geoffrey Kondogbia moves closer to completing his switch to Atletico Madrid, two things became clear this weekend: the first is that Valencia coach Javi Gracia is becoming increasingly exasperated by his situation; and secondly that Diego Simeone will soon have no excuses left not to mount a serious challenge for honours.
‘Whoever needs to explain why Kondogbia is leaving, let him come out and explain it. I’m just here to coach,’ said Gracia on Sunday night after suggesting that he had been told by Peter Lim that the player would not be leaving last month.
Last Friday Simeone was tight-lipped saying only: ‘the club always looks what’s best for the team’. He knows that defensive midfielder Kondogbia will offer him something that he doesn’t have right now.
Diego Simeone will be hopeful that Atletico Madrid can challenge across all fronts this year
The imminent signing of midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia will improve Atletico’s tilt for trophies
The gap left by Thomas Partey who operated as the team’s deepest midfielder has only been half-covered by Lucas Torreira who is still learning his trade. The experienced France international will give Simeone a first-class alternative.
His imminent arrival and the form of Joao Felix who has scored four goals in his last three games are reasons for Simeone to feel confident about what the rest of this season has in store.
The 20-year-old club record signing now has five goals in his nine Atletico games this season. He might have had a hat-trick last weekend had his second penalty not come back off the post.
Joao Felix (right) has scored five goals this season and gives Simeone reason to be confident
The reasons are running out for why Atletico cannot mount a serious challenge for honours
Will this team fire Atletico to glory?
Defence: Trippier, Gimenez, Savic, Lodi
Midfield: Kondogbia, Koke, Saul, Joao Felix
Strikers: Suarez, Marcos Llorente
Atletico won that game 3-1 and they did it with top league scorer Luis Suarez resting in the capital ready for the team’s trip to Moscow to play Lokomotiv earlier this week.
Saul Niguez was also missing. The midfielder returned for the 1-1 Champions League affair in Russia on Tuesday and with both players back Simone has an abundance of options.
The ever-reliable Angel Correa and the lightning-quick Marcos Llorente complement Suarez and Felix. They also offer width when deployed on the flanks.
In the middle of the pitch Koke delivered his best performance of the season for the team on Saturday and the prospect of him being released by the arrival of Kondogbia has supporters hoping he’ll hit the heights he did when Gabi was in the side to cover his back.
Defensively Atletico have only conceded three times in the domestic competition.
The fact that they have the best defensive record in Spain contrasts with the four goal drubbing suffered at the hands of Bayern Munich and the two goals Salzburg got past them.
Koke (R) recently gave his best performance of the season and may impress next to Kondogbia
Jan Oblak is one of the best stoppers in the world and will prove crucial to Atletico’s success
But whichever version you take of their defensive form it’s true that they have one of the world’s best shot-stoppers in Jan Oblak and Manchester City target Jose Gimenez is now back from a coronavirus positive test and a hamstring injury to play in front of him.
They also have Stefan Savic, alongside him, in the form of his life.
And Kieran Trippier who suffered against Bayern’s Kingsley Coman, and then against Betis winger Cristian Tello, was back to his best at the weekend defending well and weighing in with a clever assist for the third goal.
If Renan Lodi can find the form that made him one of the stars of the Champions League win over Liverpool last season then Simeone will feel he has a team to take on all-comers this season.
Felix is the centerpiece around which all the others fit and Kondogbia could be the final piece that completes the puzzle.
Provided his players remain fit and keep their form, Simeone can lead his players to silverware
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