Season preview: Atletico Madrid

Season preview: Atletico Madrid
© PA Photos
Sports Mole assesses whether Atletico Madrid can separate the top two in Spain in the new season.

It proved to be a successful campaign for Atletico Madrid last season as the capital outfit secured third position in La Liga, in addition to claiming the Copa del Rey crown in a tightly-contested final against Real Madrid.

Top scorer Radamel Falcao departed the club for Monaco this summer, but Atletico coach Diego Simeone has strengthened his squad in the right areas.

Here, Sports Mole discusses whether Atletico can separate the top two in Spain in the coming season.

In: Roberto Jimenez (Benfica), Martin Demichelis (Malaga), David Villa (Barcelona), Leo Baptistao (Rayo Vallecano), Jose Gimenez (Danubio)

Out: Pizzi (Benfica), Roberto Jimenez (Olympiacos – Loan), Domingo Cisma (Elche), Sergio Asenjo (Villarreal – Loan), Cata Diaz (Boca Juniors), Jorge Pulido (Real Madrid Castilla), Ruben Perez (Elche – Loan), Joel Robles (Everton), Silvio (Benfica – Loan), Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Ruben Micael (Braga)

Last season: 3rd

Manager: Diego Simeone

Three key players:

Atletico de Madrid's new player David Villa poses for a picture during his presentation at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on July 15, 2013© AP Photos
David Villa: When Falcao was allowed to leave the club this summer, it was important that Simeone had a big-name replacement lined up. Well, that was indeed the case as Villa arrived from Barcelona for a figure believed to be in the region of £3m. Despite appearing just 28 times in the league last season, Villa registered 10 goals, which is even more impressive when taking into account the number of times he came off the bench. A move to England had been suggested, but Spain's record goalscorer decided to remain in La Liga ahead of the World Cup next summer. One thing is for certain: if the 31-year-old is given the correct service, he will score a host of goals for the capital outfit.

Diego Godin© PA Photos
Diego Godin: It is a big statement to make, but Diego Godin was the best defender in La Liga last season. He was part of a defence that conceded just 31 times in the league, which was comfortably the best record in the division. Credit must be given to his centre-back partner Miranda, but Godin epitomised everything that was good about Atletico under Simeone last season. The 27-year-old will not be able to rest on his laurels, however, with Real Madrid and Barcelona both bringing in a wealth of attacking talent this summer. If he can produce the type of performances that he did last season, then there is no question that Atletico will feel confident of breaking up the top two in Spain's top division.

Thibaut Courtois© PA Photos
Thibaut Courtois: In a league that contains goalkeepers such as Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes, it is no easy task to stand out as the top shot-stopper in the division. It did not prove a problem for Courtois last season, however, with the Belgian international winning the Zamora Trophy after conceding just 29 times in 37 matches. The 21-year-old had been expected to return to Chelsea this season to battle Petr Cech for a first-team spot at Stamford Bridge, but he has been allowed to spend a second season in the Spanish capital. In a summer where millions are being spent, the best piece of business in Spain could be the acquisition of the young keeper for another season at least.

First game: Sevilla (A) Aug 18

Sports Mole says: Despite sitting second in the table for large parts of last season, you never got the feeling that Atletico could really worry Barcelona. Undoubtedly second position would have been a success, but they could not hold off the late challenge from capital rivals Real Madrid. They may have lost their top scorer and best player in Falcao this summer, but Simeone has bought well with the signings of Villa and Leo Baptistao, who is expected to make a big impact at the club this season. Despite all the positives, Atletico have been forced to watch the top two in Spain spend millions on new acquisitions this summer. There is no reason why they cannot battle for a spot in the top two next season, but that said, third place would certainly be considered another successful campaign.

Predicted finish: 3rd

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Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Copa del Rey Final against Atletico Madrid on May 17, 2013
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