It’s set to be a big season for Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s team were devastating for long spells last term and despite a mid-season wobble that threatened to bring it all crashing down, they finished the season strongly and brought the league title home.
Now, it’s all about defending their crown – something Atleti haven’t managed since 1951 – and they are pulling out all the stops to do it.
They have been linked with a number of new signings, including a certain Frenchman who has struggled to hit the ground running at Barcelona, while in Rodrigo de Paul they already have one in the door.
Here is how Atleti could realistically line up when the 2021/22 season kicks off.
GK: Jan Oblak
The best keeper on the planet? Up for debate. One of the best keepers on the planet? Without question.
The Slovenian’s importance to Atletico is only growing as the years go on, and at 28, he is just now coming into the peak of his very formidable powers. Even if anyone could afford him, Atleti would be barking mad to let him go.
CB: Stefan Savic
Savic’s aerial dominance was a big part of what won the league for Atletico last season, and if Simeone opts to start with the back three that helped him turn things around, then he is nearly a guaranteed starter.
Having been a part of Manchester City‘s title-winning squad in 2012, Savic has now won leagues in three different countries, and his experience could be vital to Atleti’s hopes of retaining La Liga.
CB: Jose Maria Gimenez
Injuries once again hampered Gimenez last season, twice curtailing his momentum just as he was getting going.
But for a spell in December and January, he was one of the top defenders in La Liga, and Simeone will be hoping he can put his fitness issues behind him and rediscover that form.
CB: Mario Hermoso
Hermoso has dipped in and out of the Atletico team since his 2019 arrival from Espanyol, but started each of their final five games as they took 13 points from 15 to get the title over the line.
Capable either at centre-back or on the left, Hermoso’s versatility and intelligence makes him a valuable asset for Simeone.
RWB: Hector Bellerin
The 26-year-old has made plenty of noise about wanting a fresh start away from north London, and 90min reported back in April that the Gunners are prepared to sell. A move back to his native Spain – with Simeone’s champions no less – could be just the ticket to revitalise his stalled career.
With Saul Niguez seemingly headed for the exit door, captain Koke’s influence has never been more important to Atletico than it is now.
His leadership and tenacity in the middle of the park always keeps the standards high, and even after starting every game for Spain on their way to the Euro 2020 semi-finals, he isn’t likely to get much of a rest once he reports for pre-season.
CM: Rodrigo de Paul
A new arrival from Udinese and a countryman of Simeone’s, De Paul is set to bring some creativity to the Atletico engine room.
Fresh off the back of a Copa America win, he’ll be champing at the bit to get his hands on some more silverware at Wanda Metropolitano this season.
LWB: Renan Lodi
It could just as easily be Yannick Carrasco starting down the left, but Lodi is slowly beginning to make his mark in La Liga.
He proved his worth for Brazil at Copa America, winning a starting spot from Alex Sandro, and he will be out to do the same when he reports back for duty in Madrid.
AM: Marcos Llorente
Llorente has reinvented himself as the perfect all-round midfielder under Simeone, and it doesn’t seem to matter where he plays.
We’ve seen him star everywhere from right-back to centre-forward since he crossed the Madrid divide two years ago, but he is at his best further up the pitch, getting beyond the strikers to cause havoc in the box.
CF: Antoine Griezmann
Atleti are in talks to bring Griezmann back to the club after two tumultuous seasons at Barcelona, and the Frenchman will be hopeful that life under Simeone can bring him back to his best.
The circumstances he left under were contentious, but with 133 Atleti goals to his name, he is their all-time top scorer – so it likely won’t take much for him to be forgiven.
CF: Luis Suarez
Suarez’s powers appeared to be waning before he signed for Atletico a year ago, but he rediscovered some of his very best form to fire them to La Liga last term.
He netted 21 goals in his debut season at Wanda Metropolitano, and though he turns 35 in January, he still has another season or two of banging in the goals for the Rojiblancos to look forward to.