At the beginning of the season, Atletico Madrid were relatively unfancied by the bookmakers and as always, they were a long way behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in the outright betting. This dominant pair are always extremely popular pre-season picks for punters and with the likes of Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema expected to dominate the division once again. As a result, very few bettors are willing to take a chance on Simeone’s men. Wagering on La Liga is extremely popular, and with a number of household names competing in the division, it is one of the most exciting divisions for bettors to follow. With many of the best promotions on new betting sites giving ante-post bettors the chance to use their bonuses on pre-season markets, there is always a significant amount of money being placed on both Los Blancos and the Blaugrana.
Despite this, Atletico are the kind of team who relish the opportunity to play the role of underdogs and Diego Simeone has regularly spoken about strength in adversity and collective spirit.
“The Suarez Zone”
Having fallen out of favour at Barcelona, there were many raised eyebrows when Luis Suarez joined the club’s title rivals back in September 2020. However, the passionate Uruguayan undoubtedly proved his worth across the course of the campaign, and he netted a 67th minute winner against Valladolid to help clinch the title for his latest club.
Suarez may not have much pace left, and he often struggles to beat his man, however, he’s developed a knack of popping up with crucial goals and his experience has helped to improve the players around him. Having been surplus to requirements at the Nou Camp, he had a point to prove to Ronald Koeman and he certainly delivered on that promise.
Suarez has been managed superbly, with the coaching staff helping to ensure that the ageing striker has been used both sparingly and effectively throughout the course of the season. The former Liverpool man has relished playing in the number nine role, a position which has been specifically crafted for him by his manager.
Simeone did not mind that the striker touched the ball far less during the course of his side’s build up play. He didn’t ask Suarez to over-complicate the game and simply asked him to show killer instinct whenever he came across a presentable opportunity.
As a result, the term “Suarez Zone” was created by the 51-year old. He highlighted the fact that his side needed to be mentally strong and cope with the pressure of leading a title race. He spoke about the fact that his side were entering the “Suarez Zone” and that players such as the Uruguayan were expected to step up and thrive at this crucial stage of the season.
What Next for Atletico?
With many players, including Suarez, having committed their future to the club, it looks set to be a hugely positive summer for Atleti. Captain Jose Giminez has also verbally agreed to remain in the Spanish capital, despite persistent rumours linking him with a move elsewhere.
Although their transfer outgoings are minimal compared to the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, they aren’t afraid to splash the cash and we are likely to see a small number of key additions over the coming months.
They have been linked with various players including Rafael Santos Borre of River Plate. Lucas Torreira, who spent last season on loan at the Wanda Metropolitana, also looks set to make his loan deal a permanent one. Although the rumours surrounding the return of Antoine Griezmann appear to be a little far-fetched at this stage, there is little doubt that Atletico Madrid’s status as La Liga champions will help them attract a better quality of player this summer.
However, Diego Simeone requires a very specific type of player and recruitment is unlikely to be rushed.
With Zinedine Zidane having departed Real Madrid and Barcelona seemingly relying on Lionel Messi for moments of magic, Atletico could have the edge yet again next season. They will need to find a way to embody the same fighting spirit, and they mustn’t become distracted by the prospect of European football. However, they certainly appear to have the credentials to secure back-to-back titles and with Luis Suarez leading the line, anything is possible!