MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 11: Antoine Greizmann of Atletico de Madrid celebrates with Diego Costa after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Celta de Vigo at Wanda Metropolitano stadium on March 11, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Atletico Madrid 2018/19 Season Preview: Strengths, Weaknesses, Key Man and Predictions

Winning the Europa League last season, Atletico Madrid claimed their first trophy since the Supercopa d'Espana of 2014. Fantastically consistent under Diego Simeone, Los Rojiblancos have cemented themselves as one of Spain's elite teams.

Hoping to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for this season's La Liga, Atleti can have confidence in knowing they have retained great players while adding a few gems. City rivals Real Madrid have lost their talisman in Cristiano Ronaldo, and Barca have said goodbye to club legend Andres Iniesta.

With Diego Simeone at the helm, Atletico Madrid have a steadfast and unyielding coach. They will be after the Champions League this campaign, as it continues to be the one trophy that has eluded the club for what seems like an eon. 

1. Last Season

Runners-up to an almost unbeatable Barcelona, Atletico trailed La Blaugrana by 14 points. However, a second place finish is more than respectable considering the financial clout of city rivals Real Madrid.

Disappointingly knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Sevilla, they will hope to do better than a quarter final contest this time around. A campaign that started with comfortable wins over Elche and Lleida Esportiu was abruptly cut short after a 5-2 aggregate loss to the Andalusian side.

On the continent, Atletico had a very unwanted beginning. Drawn into a Champions League group with Chelsea, Roma and Qarabag, the Spaniards would've fancied their chances of topping the table. However, things went terribly wrong, with the club only picking up 7 points after drawing 4 of of 6 games. 

Knocked into the Europa League due to their third place finish, Atletico Madrid had found themselves in a win or bust situation. After convincing victories over Copenhagen and Lokomotiv Moscow, they then ground out two affairs with Sporting CP and Arsenal — both ties ended 2-1 on aggregate — to make the showpiece finale. 

Entering the final in Lyon, Atletico knew that it would be the last match of true club servants Fernando 'El Nino' Torres and club captain Gabi. It turned out to be a great send off. Dominating Marseille for large portions of the game, Atleti ran out 3-0 winners.

2. Transfers In

Atletico Madrid have made quite the splash in this summer's transfer window, wrapping up two fairly large signings. The first was Rodri from Villarreal, with the defensive midfielder seen as a direct replacement for exiting Gabi. 

A move that will likely acquiesce Saul and Koke's forays up field, the 22-year-old will keep watch ahead of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez. A fee of €20m plus an extra €5m in variables, the player has returned to his hometown club five years after leaving their youth system.

Next was their biggest move of the window, snapping up French starlet Thomas Lemar from Monaco. In a deal worth an estimated €60m, the Guadeloupe born winger was tempted to Madrid by international teammates Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez. 

However, there have been shrewder signings, the likes of which allow Los Rojiblancos to compete with the big dogs Barcelona and Real. Santiago Arias has arrived as a replacement for Sime Vrsaljko, with Antonio Adan brought in from Real Betis as a back-up to Jan Oblak. 

With perhaps the biggest bargain of the summer, Atletico have sniped Gelson Martins on a free transfer after the whole Sporting CP fiasco. It is still unsure whether the transfer will remain without cost, as the Portuguese side continue to wade through the quagmire of contractual termination. 

3. Transfers Out

Saying adios to the Wanda Metropolitano were two clubs legends. Fernando Torres' second spell in Spain's capital ended fantastically, with two goals against Eibar in his last La Liga game. 

Having originally plied his trade with Atleti at the Estadio Vicente Calderon between 2001 and 2007, the forward went on to Liverpool, where — for a brief period — he became the world's most lethal striker. Now with Japanese club Segan Tosu, Torres looks to enjoy the last few years of his top-class career. 

Also exiting stage left; captain Gabi. Like Torres, this was Gabi's second spell at Atleti, after leaving for Zaragoza in 2007. Returning for a seven year stint, the midfielder was brought back in 2011 by Gregorio Manzano. Ending his 239th appearance with a last-minute goal in the Europa League final win, Gabi lifted the cup before heading to money-rich Al-Sadd of Qatar.

Another one to leave was Sime Vrsaljko, who has moved to Inter on a season loan, with an option to buy. Other notable transfers include Diogo Jota who finalised his €14m move to Premier League new boys Wolves, and Cameroonian midfielder Pierre Kunde who ended up in Mainz 05. 

4. Strengths

If stats are anything to go by, it appears that Atletico are fairly decent at defending. 

Conceding a La Liga low of 22 goals last campaign, Diego Simeone has become revered by some — and hated by others — for his tactical mindset. Score one and concede none, then you'll win the game. Easy in principle, yet a lot more difficult in execution. 

Luckily for Atletico fans, they have what many could argue is the best centre back partnership in the world. Teammates at club and international level, Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez are never far apart. Their goalkeeper isn't half bad either, with Jan Oblak of Slovenia one of the best shot stoppers in Europe. The man between the sticks had an average goals-to-game ratio of 0.59 last year, earning him the Zamora trophy. 

Up top, Los Rojiblancos have two of the most dangerous forwards on the planet. The ever-polarising Diego Costa makes a living off intimidating defences, his terrorising figure a nightmare to deal with. Dragging his opponent into an all out 90 minute battle, the adopted Spaniard creates space for his shadow striker, Antoine Griezmann.

We'll talk about the Frenchman a little later, but for now, let's just say he scores goals. A lot of them. 

5. Weaknesses

Tenacity in spirit is great, as long as it doesn't spill over the edge. I think It's fair to presume that Atletico Madrid aren't winning any fair play awards while Diego Simeone is in charge. Their physical mindset may perhaps come from the instilled idea of being underdogs to Barca and Real, with a robust style necessary to compete.  

Bookings were a problem for Los Rojiblancos last season, with 88 yellow and 5 red cards. Seeing as they've committed 538 fouls as opposed to league competitors Barca's 383, the difference is fairly substantial. It would be honourable to say that La Blaugrana's ball retention means fouls don't materialise as often, but a discrepancy of 155 is certainly noticeable. 

Away form has also been slightly sketchy, with four draws and four losses in last term's La Liga. Losing to Barcelona at Camp Nou isn't anything to be shocked about, but defeats to Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Villarreal managed to raise some eyebrows. Zero away wins in the Champions League was troubling too, with a single goal at Stamford Bridge bettering floundering displays in Italy and Azerbaijan. 

6. Key Man

Atleti's key man — as he has been for many a season — is French goal machine Antoine Greizmann. The Fortnite fiend has had a fantastic summer as an integral piece to his nation's World Cup-winning side. 

Finding the net 122 times in 209 games since signing from Real Sociedad in 2014, the forward is on the score-sheet more often than not. Last campaign saw a return of 19 goals in 32 La Liga appearances, with 9 assists. 

After much speculation regarding a move to Catalan giants Barcelona, Greizmann took to social media for a Lebron James-esque reveal. Announcing he would stay at Atleti for the foreseeable future, the striker will be focused on helping his team achieve their ultimate goal. 

With confidence high and international performances confirming his status as one of the best around, it's presumable that the majority of Primera Division sides will be left triggered after a few 'take the L' celebrations this upcoming year. 

7. Predictions

Predicting Atleti's season is a tricky one. Obviously, it's almost nailed on that they'll finish in the top three in Spain, but in which position? I'm going to say this story will resemble the last, and they'll squeeze into 2nd place behind La Blaugrana. This time however, all three of Spain's powerhouses will finish within 10 points of each other.

As for the Champions League? I can see Los Rojiblancos really challenging. With a strong squad and determined manager, there's no doubt in my mind that they achieve way more than the disappointment of last term.

The additions of Rodri and Lemar will prove to be a big plus, and with a fantastic back line it'll be up to the scoring ability of Costa and Griezmann. A passionate fan base combined with being stylistically problematic to play against, not many will want to draw Atleti. 

Sticking my neck out, I'll say they lose the final again. Perennial nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo will continue to haunt them, but this time it'll be with Juve as opposed to Real. 

Lo siento, mis amigos.