After winning four straight games to qualify for Europa League group stages, Atletico Madrid are hoping to continue rich vein of form when they host Osasuna in their opening La Liga game. Los Rojillos have shown some promise in pre-season, but the game at Vicente Calderon will be the first real test for Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side.
Atletico on fire
Having spent last few years struggling to achieve a top 4 finish, Atletico Madrid chiefs did their best this summer to create a squad capable of matching the best sides in Spain, and the first signs have been more than positive. Europa League top scorer Falcao, Under-21 European Championship MVP Adrian Lopez and Eduardo Salvio, who returned from Benfica have added an unbelievable amount of quality to the front line, whereas Arda Turan is expected to be real refreshment in the creative department. Even without Falcao, Turan and wantaway Diego Forlan, Atletico have really impressed in Europa League qualifying rounds, recording double wins over Stromsgodset and Vitoria Guimaraes, scoring ten goals and conceding just one in four games. The players are now brimming with confidence before the long awaited start of La Liga, and there are absolutely no doubts that los Colchoneros are better prepared than their next opponents, having already played four competitive games.
Diego Forlan returned to the group after asking coach Manzano not to travel to Portugal for the Europa League game against Vitoria, while Radamel Falcao Garcia should also be in contention. Diego Costa remains sidelined, while Arda Turan is a doubt with a muscle injury.
Another relegation fight for Osasuna
Osasuna spent much of last season in and around the relegation zone and it was the run of four wins in last five games that saw them avoid relegation to Segunda. Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar is aware that his side face another difficult relegation struggle and who are we to disagree? After selling key midfielder Juanfran to Atletico Madrid in January, Osasuna stayed without two more key players this summer, having sold Nacho Monreal and Javier Camunas to Malaga and Villarreal respectively, and with no big name players arriving, the team definitely look weaker than last term. Midfielder Raul Garcia returned to the club on loan from Atletico Madrid, but he is ineligible to face his parent club. The club are awaiting Belgian attacker Ronald Lamah, who is set to complete his transfer from Le Mans, but he, too, won’t be in contention for this game. All things considered, Osasuna don’t look capable of matching red-hot Atletico Madrid at Vicente Calderon.
In addition to Raul Garcia, Masoud Shojaei and Ion Echaide are also unavailable for selection, but Damia could return.
Having started the season earlier than most other Spanish sides, Atletico Madrid appear to have already hit the ground running and the string of very good performances in Europa League quals should keep them in good stead before the Osasuna game. Los Rojillos, on the other hand, are struggling to cope with the departure of two key players, and with few others unavailable for this clash, they should be happy to avoid a heavy defeat at Vicente Calderon.
Our prediction: Atletico Madrid with -1 Asian handicap
Odds: 2.15 (23/20)