Atletico Madrid begin their title defence with a trip to Celta Vigo, as Diego Simeone will aim for back-to-back La Liga triumphs.

Atletico Madrid did a tremendous job of overcoming the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid to win a closely contested La Liga title race in 2020/21. Diego Simeone’s men took early charge of last season then tailed off due to multiple losses. Eventually, when it mattered, they kept their composure to win games and ultimately the championship.

This season, Los Colchoneros will be hoping to retain the La Liga title after watching their close rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid go through many internal troubles. While Simeone has kept most of his important stars in the summer window, he has added the formidable Rodrigo De Paul to improve his side’s chances.

Their challenge this term begins with a tricky trip to Celta Vigo, who will be hoping to start their own season with a bang. Last season’s 8th place finish was unexpected for Celta, considering they were languishing towards the bottom of La Liga after early-season struggles.

Eduardo Coudet’s men changed their fortunes and regained their form to finish 8th in the league ultimately. Celta will be hoping to start the new season without finding themselves in a situation like the last term. The Spanish side will eventually be aiming to finish in European places, even if it seems an unlikely prospect.

Team News & Tactics

Celta Vigo

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Celta have a clean bill of health heading into their La Liga opener. The only doubts had been with three new signings, Javi Galan, Franco Cervi and Jose Fontan. Due to the side’s issue with La Liga’s wage cap regulations, those signings had not been registered, but the matter has been resolved heading into their season opener.

With the squad Coudet has, he will line Celta Vigo up in a 4-3-3 formation. With the club hopeful of registering their new players, there’s ample chance of left-back signing Galan and central defender Jose Fontan to be included in the starting XI. The new duo will feature beside Hugo Mallo and Nestor Araujo in a back four setup.

Renato Tapia should feature in the holding role, with the rest of the midfield likely to comprise Brais Mendez and Denis Suarez. These stars all have attacking instincts and will rely heavily on Tapia behind to do the defensive work.

Iago Aspas and Santi Mina should continue their prolific partnership in attack, which yielded 25 goals and 17 assists last season. They will also have Nolito for support.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dituro; Mallo, Araujo, Fontan, Galan; Mendez, Tapia, Suarez; Mina, Aspas, Nolito

Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone has most of his squad available for the Celta game and will be tinkering again to choose the right team and formation. The manager could use a typical 4-4-2 or switch towards a three at the back. Simeone likes to play attacking players at wing-backs and increase their output; he might go with such a system against Celta.

Joao Felix is a notable absentee for the La Liga champions, however. The Portuguese international is a long-term absentee after undergoing ankle surgery following the Euros. Hector Herrera, Felipe and Marcos Paulo are also unlikely to feature with all of them injury doubts.

New signing Rodrigo De Paul could make his debut and lineup alongside Koke in central midfield. It could place Saul Niguez, who has been a subject of intense transfer speculation during the summer, on the bench.

Simeone will start with Jan Oblak as his preferred goalkeeper, with Jose Maria Gimenez, Stefan Savic and Mario Hermoso in front of him. Further down, De Paul and Koke will be flanked by Kieran Trippier and Yannick Carrasco at wing-backs on either side.

Marcos Llorente and Thomas Lemar will form the attacking line behind Luis Suarez, who could lead the line despite arriving late from his holidays.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Oblak; Savic, Giminez, Hermoso; Trippier, Koke, De Paul, Carrasco; Llorente, Lemar; Suarez

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 games against Celta Vigo in all competitions.
  • Atletico Madrid have scored at least two goals in their last three matches in the league.
  • Celta Vigo have scored at least two goals in five of their last six matches.
  • Celta Vigo have lost just two of their last six meetings with Atletico Madrid in La Liga (W1 D3).
  • Atletico Madrid have won only three of their last nine league games on the road (W3 D4 L2).

Player to Watch

Rodrigo De Paul

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The former Udinese midfielder was a very good capture during the summer for Atletico, especially considering the financial struggles of all Spanish clubs. At 27 years of age, the Argentine midfielder is entering his prime, and his performances at the Copa America would have encouraged Diego Simeone further.

A good talent on the ball, De Paul is expected to be drafted straight into the starting lineup against Celta, and the midfielder will have to be at his best. At times, the La Liga champions showed a lack of free-flowing creativity from midfield, and De Paul can look to solve this issue. Moreover, he has to be at the top of his game as there is more competition for a midfield position at Madrid, most notably from Saul Niguez.

Prediction

Celta Vigo 0-2 Atletico Madrid

Celta possesses some of the brightest attacking talents in Spain, but they might be no match for Atletico. The Madrid side is a formidable force, and fresh from winning the league, might be too hot to handle right now. Furthermore, Simeone’s smart acquisitions will only have improved on existing quality.

Celta, meanwhile, are on a good run of form since the end of the last term, but that run could be in for an abrupt stop when they meet Atletico. Expect Simeone’s men to ease their way through this Celta Vigo side to take all three points back to the Wanda Metropolitano.

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