Atletico Madrid maintained their 100 per cent win record in pre-season with a 2-1 triumph over Juventus in the International Champions Cup.
New-signing Joao Felix scored either side of Sami Khedira’s goal to help his team edge the champions of Italy.
Both teams made good use of their last friendly by testing many combinations and using most of the players at their disposal.
We take a look at the talking points from the closely contested affair.
New look Atletico Madrid, same old Diego Simeone
There is probably no top club in Europe that has experienced a bigger overhaul than Atletico Madrid this summer. Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, Rodri and Lucas Hernandez were some of the key players who left the club this transfer window. Joao Felix, Mario Hermoso, Marcos Llorente and Kieran Trippier were bought as replacements in their respective positions.
This big change was expected to trigger a change in their style of play too, given the new signings do not exactly mirror the profile of the players that departed. But manager Diego Simeone ensured Atletico won the game in the most Atletico way possible. Los Rojiblancos soaked up pressure and made the most of whatever little chances they created.
Atletico scored two goals from two shots on target out of a total seven. They enjoyed very little of the ball but struck hard in counters. In fact, both their goals arrived against the run of play. In contrast, five of Juventus’ 14 shots were on target and they scored just one goal. The resilience of Atletico’s defence and Jan Oblak’s heroics in goal were on display yet again.
This points to an encouraging find for Los Rojiblancos. While teams like Manchester United and Barcelona usually go through a transitional phase, it appears that Simeone’s philosophy can be incorporated immediately by the new set of players. The capital club is hence bound to be a threat in the league despite experiencing a massive reshuffle in the squad.
Douglas Costa – One to watch
Douglas Costa was Juventus’ best player on the field. The winger lit up the play and was a constant threat on the right wing. The most important aspect of his game was that his dribbles and clever runs usually contained an end product. This, paired with good decision-making, ensured the Brazilian had a good outing against Atletico.
It will be interesting to see what the new season has in store for the 28-year-old. He missed most of last season due to injuries but has finally recovered to full fitness. His dazzling runs on the right combined with Cristiano Ronaldo playing the fox in the box could produce many goals this season.
Costa’s tendency to cut in and have a go at goal himself makes him a dangerous player against a team that likes to defend deep. He was unlucky on a couple of occasions to find Atletico bodies in the trajectory of his shot but he could be the key for Juve should they encounter a defence they fail to unlock.
Maurizio Sarri heavily favoured Willian at Chelsea and Costa is a player with a very similar profile. This means that the Brazilian is one to watch out for as he is likely to play a major role at the club this season.
Joao Felix is magic
This performance will contribute to the immense hype that is surrounding Atletico’s record signing Felix. The Portugal international possesses high potential and his price tag of €126 million, though steep, may not prove to be so exorbitant a couple of years from now.
The promise of a bright future aside, Felix showed that he is already a top player who could immediately assume the throne left vacant by Griezmann. Traits such as the striker’s instinct and positional awareness can only get better with time and Felix is already at a very good level.
His first goal was a well-taken half-volley that was perfectly placed beyond Wojciech Szczesny’s reach. The second was a trademark striker’s goal where he got ahead of Matthijs de Ligt to slot home Thomas Lemar’s cross with his first touch.
A top performance against a top defence warrants more hype and Felix is very likely to live up to it.
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